US rehearsing nuclear strike: Russia

·2-min read

The US has been criticised for rehearsing a nuclear strike on Russia from two different directions earlier this month, with the planes coming within 20km of the Russian border.

The Pentagon responded by saying its drills were announced publicly at the time and adhered to international protocols.

Moscow's accusation comes at a time of high tension with Washington over Ukraine, with US officials voicing concerns about a possible Russian attack on its southern neighbour - a suggestion the Kremlin has dismissed.

Moscow has in turn accused the United States, NATO and Ukraine of provocative and irresponsible behaviour, pointing to US arms supplies to Ukraine, Kiev's use of Turkish strike drones against Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, and NATO military exercises close to its borders.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had noted a significant increase in the activity by US strategic bombers, which he said had carried out 30 flights close to Russia this month.

That, he said, was more than twice as many as over the same period last year.

Shoigu complained in particular of what he said was a simulated US nuclear strike against Russia earlier this month.

"The defence minister underlined that during the US military exercises 'Global Thunder', 10 American strategic bombers rehearsed launching nuclear weapons against Russia from the western and eastern directions," Shoigu was quoted as saying in a defence ministry statement.

"The minimum proximity to our state border was 20km."

The Pentagon pushed back.

"These missions were announced publicly at the time, and closely planned with ... allies and partners to ensure maximum training and integration opportunities as well as compliance with all national and international requirements and protocols," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth said.

Global Thunder, which this year put US nuclear-capable B-52 bombers through their paces, is the US Strategic Command's annual nuclear and command exercise designed to test and demonstrate the readiness of Washington's nuclear capabilities.

President Vladimir Putin referenced the apparent episode briefly last week, complaining of Western strategic bombers carrying "very serious weapons" close to Russia.

He said the West was taking Moscow's warnings not to cross its "red lines" too lightly.

Shoigu made the comments in a video conference with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe.

He said US bomber flights close to Russia's eastern borders were also a threat to China.

"Against this backdrop, Russo-Chinese co-ordination is becoming a stabilising factor in world affairs," Shoigu said.

Russia and China agreed at their meeting to step up co-operation between their armed forces when it came to strategic military exercises and joint patrols, the defence ministry said.

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