Russia's President Vladimir Putin sat beside his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in a command center on Saturday to oversee large-scale Russian strategic nuclear exercises. As we detailed previously, the drills typically take place in the fall, but were moved up to Saturday in a bit of serious muscle-flexing directed at NATO. The drills included the successful test launch of a Zircon hypersonic missile and other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
"Russia hit sea and land-based targets with ballistic and cruise missiles on Saturday as part of strategic nuclear exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, the Kremlin said," Reuters reports.
Additionally The Wall Street Journal based on local sources detailed that "A combination of ballistic and cruise missiles was to be launched as part of the maneuvers, which involved the country’s strategic missile forces and the Black Sea fleet, the Kremlin said, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry television channel, Zvezda."
"All the missiles hit their targets, confirming their performance objectives," the Kremlin said in a statement, adding Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and nuclear submarines carried out the drills.
"The main objective of these exercises is to perfect the performance of our strategic offensive forces, with the aim of delivering a guaranteed strike against the enemy," Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov told Putin in televised comments.
Russia's defense ministry was quick to release footage of the launches, also of a ballistic missile from a submarine, in what appears a clear 'message' to the West that it stands ready to act against any major NATO provocation.
Some of Saturday's missile launches and maneuvers were done in the Black Sea.
"During the strategic deterrence force drills, Russia’s Aerospace Force successfully launched Kinzhal hypersonic aeroballistic missiles, the Kremlin’s press office reported," TASS confirmed just before the footage was made public.
"Warships and submarines of the Northern and Black Sea Fleets conducted launches of Kalibr cruise missiles and a Tsirkon hypersonic missile against naval and ground targets. At the Kapustin Yar proving ground in the Astrakhan Region, an Iskander land-based cruise missile was launched," the MoD statement added.
Footage of the hypersonic missile being readied...
While recently Ukraine's Defense Minister said the chances of a major war between Russia and Ukraine remain at "low probability" - fighting along the line of contact in the Donbas is intensifying.
Meanwhile, Putin and Lukashenko were photographed together overseeing the nuclear drills in an unmistakable message...
Putin and Luhashenko at the command and control center pic.twitter.com/qHOKm9or08— Michael A. Horowitz (@michaelh992) February 19, 2022