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Russia readies major Strategic Missile Forces drills

Russian strategic missile forces training exercise. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/WikiCommon)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia says it will test its Strategic Missile Forces this week in a three-day exercise set to include ballistic and cruise missiles fired from the land, sea, and air.

The Thunder-2019 exercises, from October 15-17, will involve some 12,000 military personnel, as well as surface ships, submarines, and aircraft such as strategic nuclear bombers, the Defense Ministry said on October 14.

The ministry said in a statement that the aim of the drills was to test the readiness of Russia’s command structure and how efficiently its orders are carried out.

Thunder-2019 follows the collapse of a landmark arms-control treaty between Moscow and Washington — the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — that has raised fears of a new arms race.

Major General Yevgeny Ilyin, acting head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s main department for international military cooperation, said that the upcoming drills were “solely defensive.”

Ilyin told a briefing for foreign attaches in Moscow that the exercises would include 16 test-launches of cruise and ballistic missiles, including Yars and Sineva intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Russia’s Western, Southern, and Western military districts, as well as its Northern Fleet would be involved, he said, adding that the naval part of the exercises would cover the Barents, Baltic, Black, Caspian, and Okhotsk seas.