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Putin orders nuke drills for possible retaliatory strike amid tensions with West

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
April 18, 2023

Russia’s entire Pacific Fleet was recently put on high alert and ordered to conduct snap drills and missile launches as tensions mount with the West over the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the point of the drills, announced on Friday, was to “test the Pacific Fleet’s readiness to repel aggression,” and said they would involve warplanes including nuclear-capable strategic bombers, The Associated Press reported.

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During a public briefing, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the drills would see the Pacific Fleet “repel massive missile and air strikes, conduct exercises to search for and destroy submarines, perform torpedo and artillery firing and missile launches,” according to the U.S. Sun.

The Russian Defense Ministry said some waters off Russia’s Pacific coast would be closed to sea and air traffic during artillery exercises and practice launches of torpedoes and missiles, AP reported. One of the closed areas, Avacha Bay, is about 611 miles from the nearest Alaskan island.

Other areas being closed were in the southern portion of the Sea of Okhotsk and Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan.

The drills also involved marine units deploying to amphibious landing vessels and coastal defense missile systems being moved into firing positions, AP reported.

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Shoigu said the drills would respond to an imagined adversary making a landing on Sakhalin Island, the largest in Russia, and the southern Kuril Islands, which are the subject of a territorial dispute with Japan, AP reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month as Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart in Moscow, AP reported.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the drills had nothing to do with any tensions in the region, Reuters reported.

“This is a common practice,” Peskov said at a daily news briefing. “It has been constantly carried out in recent years and it continues. This is about maintaining the necessary level of combat readiness of our armed forces.”