Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced new strategic military maneuvers for February 19, to be overseen by President Vladimir Putin, amid concerns that the Kremlin is possibly planning an invasion of Ukraine.
“On February 19, a planned drill of the forces of the strategic containment will be held under the leadership of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, during which, ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched,” a ministry statement on February 18 said.
It said troops and equipment of Russia’s aerospace forces from the South Military District, as well as missile units of the Northern and Black Sea fleets, will participate in the exercises.
The state TASS news agency said the drills involve a strategic missile-carrying submarine of the Northern Fleet firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards the Kura training ground in Kamchatka in Russia’s Far East, while a nuclear-powered submarine from the Pacific Fleet launches an ICBM at a target in the Chizha firing range in northern Russia.
In addition, the Strategic Missile Force test-launches an ICBM during the exercises, while long-range aircraft from the Aerospace Force fire cruise missiles.
The statement comes hours after Belarus’s authoritarian leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, arrived in Moscow to hold talks with Putin to decide on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus after ongoing joint military drills end on February 20.
With Belarus bordering on both NATO’s eastern flank and Ukraine, the exercises, involving some 30,000 Russian troops, have caused concern in the West over the Kremlin’s true intentions given it has amassed, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, about 130,000 soldiers and military hardware in areas near the border with Ukraine.
Russia has denied it plans to invade Ukraine.