Putin to oversee nuclear drills during standoff over Ukraine

Russian servicemen drive Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile systems during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (Photo: agencies)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will oversee exercises by Russia's nuclear forces on Saturday involving the launch of ballistic and cruise missiles, the defense ministry said. This is Russia's latest show of strength at a time of heightened tension with the West over Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the exercises were part of a regular training process and denied they signaled an escalation to the standoff. He said Putin's role was essential, and the president was likely to take part from a "situation center".

The defense ministry said the drills would test the readiness of military command and control, combat crews, warships and strategic missile carriers, as well as the reliability of strategic nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.

They would involve Russia's Aerospace Forces, its Southern Military District, Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern Fleet and the Black Sea Fleet.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures while speaking to journalists at the Osipovichi training ground near Osipovichi, Belarus, February 17, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that he would take part in overseeing military drills on Saturday along with Putin, RIA news agency reported.

Lukashenko made the remark at talks with Putin in Moscow without saying which drills.

(With input from agencies)