Russia launches nuclear-capable missile as US says Putin decided to invade Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin sat watching the war-making drills on a screen on Saturday alongside the president of neighboring Belarus Alexander Lukashenko

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Russia launches Sineva and Iskander missiles during military drills

Vladimir Putin conducted nuclear missile drills today as the US warned Russian troops on Ukraine’s border were “ready to strike”.

The drills are being carried out by the Kremlin’s nuclear missile forces and come amid a series of military training exercises that the West fears are being used as a prelude to an invasion.

If Moscow sends troops into Ukraine, it is feared that it could spark one of the worst conflicts since the Cold War.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russian forces were beginning to “expand and move closer” to the border with its former Soviet neighbour.

“We hope he will back down from the brink of conflict,” he told a news conference during a visit to Lithuania, saying an invasion of Ukraine was not inevitable.

A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during a nuclear force exercise



Russia has ordered a military build-up while asking NATO to prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance but says predictions it is planning an invasion of Ukraine are false and dangerous.

It says it is now withdrawing while Washington and its allies insist construction is increasing.

Leaders of Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine earlier announced the full mobilization of their troops, a day after ordering the evacuation of women and children to Russia, citing the threat of an uprising. imminent attack of Ukrainian forces.

Exercises overseen by Putin himself



Kyiv flatly denies the accusations, and both Washington and Washington say the increased shelling across the entire ceasefire line this week is part of a Russian plan to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow on Saturday said a Ukrainian shell had exploded inside Russia and Russian news agencies later cited an unnamed source as reporting a second.

Multiple explosions could be heard Saturday morning north of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, as many people boarded buses to leave, a Reuters witness said.

The origin is not immediately clear. Ukraine earlier said one of its soldiers had been killed.

“It was really scary. I took everything I could bring,” said Tatyana, 30, who was boarding a bus with her four-year-old daughter.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday



US President Joe Biden, who regularly issues warnings of an impending invasion, said on Friday he believes the capital Kyiv would be a target for Russia but he doesn’t think Mr Putin even intends to use nuclear weapons from a distance.

Biden said Putin will invade in the coming days. “At this point, I firmly believe that he has made the decision,” he told reporters.

The Kremlin says Russia has successfully test-fired cruise and hypersonic missiles at sea and land targets during drills by Russia’s nuclear forces.

Putin watched the drills on a screen with the president of neighboring Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, from what the Kremlin described as “the center of the situation”.

A Russian paratrooper during a joint exercise of the Russian and Belarusian armed forces


Russian Ministry of Defense / AFP via)

Mr. Austin said the nuclear exercises were raising concerns among defense leaders around the world because the Russian military was focused on building massive forces around Ukraine.

“When you put on top of that a very complex exercise with strategic nuclear forces, that makes things so complicated that you can have an accident or go wrong,” he said.

The drills follow a huge series of maneuvers by Russia’s armed forces over the past four months, including the buildup of troops – 150,000 or more by Western estimates – in the north. , eastern and southern Ukraine.

Moscow-based analysts say the exercises are intended to send a message about Russia’s importance to NATO’s demands for security guarantees after the alliance expands beyond Russia’s borders. since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Putin in his office in the Kremlin during a videoconference


Alexei Nikolsky / TASS)

“The signal to the West is not ‘don’t interfere’,” said Dmitry Stefanovich, a researcher at IMEMO RAS. much more”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday that Russia knew the alliance could not meet its demands, including the withdrawal of NATO forces from communist Eastern European nations that have chosen to join NATO. .

New helicopters and a battle group consisting of tanks, armored personnel carriers and support equipment have been deployed in Russia, near the border, according to US-based Maxar Technologies, which monitors developments in video. satellite image.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits border troops in Donetsk


Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Kremlin also has tens of thousands of troops holding drills in Belarus, north of Ukraine, which are scheduled to end on Sunday.

Lukashenko said on Friday that they could stay if needed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is scheduled to meet US Vice President Kamala Harris, Stoltenberg and other Western leaders at the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday and return the same day amid concerns Russia could trying to stage a coup.

Moscow has denied that it has any such plans.

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Russian-backed rebels seized a swath of eastern Ukraine in 2014, the same year that Moscow annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine after protests toppled the pro-Russian leader.

Kyiv says more than 14,000 people have died in the conflict in the east.

In a breakaway region, Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said he had signed a decree on mobilization and called on men “who can take up arms” to the military commissions. .

The Luhansk People’s Republic issued a similar decree.

Russian news agencies on Saturday reported that 10,000 people had been evacuated to Russia so far. The separatists’ authors say they aim to evacuate 700,000 people.

Donetsk residents board a bus during the evacuation to Russia



At a market in Donetsk, Oksana Feoktisova, 38, boarded an evacuation bus with her 9-year-old son and her mother.

With them was Yuri, Feoktisova’s brother, who remained in Donetsk.

“They don’t let men in, and I wouldn’t be frank about it anyway,” Yuri said. “I am a reserve in any case. I am an artilleryman from birth … I am loyal to my state, to my people.”

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