Russian President Vladimir Putin personally launched four ballistic missiles as part of a series of drills for the country’s nuclear program, the Kremlin claimed Friday.
“The exercise practiced interaction of the Strategic Missile Force, nuclear-powered submarines of the Northern and Pacific Fleets and long-range aviation of Russia’s Aerospace Force,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Bloomberg.”The supreme commander-in-chief made launches of four ballistic missiles.”
The Russian Defense Ministry also confirmed the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“To participate in the training, forces, and means of the ground, sea and aviation component of the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation were involved,” the ministry said in a statement. “From the State Plesetsk cosmodrome, the combat calculation of the Strategic Missile Forces launched the launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Topol on the Kura test range.”
“The training assignments were accomplished in full and all the practice targets were successfully destroyed,” it added.
The drills come amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea after the North last month conducted its sixth successful test of a hydrogen bomb, and threatened to attack the U.S. with an “unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time.”
Putin has previously urged for calm over the crisis, and has claimed that sanctions against the regime will prove “useless and ineffective,” warning that both countries are “balanced on the verge of a large-scale conflict.”
“In Russia’s opinion, the calculation that it is possible to halt North Korea’s nuclear missile programs exclusively by putting pressure on Pyongyang is erroneous and futile,” Putin said. “It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.”
However, Peskov claimed that the drills “aren’t connected with any international events and take place regularly.”
Russia is known for its outward displays of military strength, and according to Bloomberg, have carried out over 2,500 military exercises so far this year.
In July, Russia and China held a series of joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, while last month Putin attended a series of exercises involving over 5,000 troops on the Russian border with Estonia. Russian officials have insisted the drills are purely defensive.
Russia and North Korea are two of nine countries to have an advanced nuclear weapons program. Other countries include the U.S., France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and the United Kingdom.