Russia is launching massive ballistic, cruise missile and nuclear force exercises tomorrow amid growing fears of an invasion into Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee missile firing from a situation room after making himself Supreme Operational Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
The huge wargaming spectacular gets underway after fierce fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian fighters continued for a second day on Friday.
Ferocious cross-frontier artillery strikes, threatening to spark all-out war hit the region amid fears Russia wants to provoke Ukraine as a pre-text for invasion.
The second day of violence came as Russian prepared to mobilize its nuclear forces on Saturday, unleashing ballistic and cruise missiles as part of a major “exercise”.
Russian Defense Ministry/AFP via)
Russia’s defense ministry said Putin will personally oversee the wargaming missile drills including around Crimea and the Black Sea. The exercise involves Russia’s aerospace forces, its strategic missile command, Northern and Black Sea fleets and the Southern Military District.
It will test the ‘readiness’ of commanders and troops as well as ‘the reliability of weapons of strategic nuclear and non-nuclear forces’ and will involve the launch of ‘ballistic and cruise missiles’, Moscow’s defense ministry said on Friday.
Final planning for the wargames was underground as sources described the shelling in the east over the past two days as the most intense since combat there ended with a 2015 ceasefire.
Massive shelling on either side sparked a series of “false flag” allegations in which forces loyal to Russia tried to blame Ukraine in an apparent attempt to spark open war.
One outrageous claim by rebels was that Ukrainian forces tried to sabotage tanks in ammonia works Donbas – an accusation that was immediately dismissed as “fake”.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs said: “This is an absolute fake but this could also be an occasion for large scale provocations including an attack on Ukraine, under the pretext of a pre-emptive strike.”
Close to 600 explosions were recorded on Friday morning, 100 more than on Thursday, some involving 152 mm and 122 mm artillery and large mortars.
At least four rounds had been fired from tanks.
The source said: “They are shooting – everyone and everything. There’s been nothing like this since 2014-15.”
The Kremlin called the situation in eastern Ukraine potentially very dangerous but on Friday there were fresh fears of Moscow-backed false flag operations in a video showing alleged Ukrainian shelling close to Donetsk airport.
Dashcam footage showed three explosions on Stratonavtov Street, causing no injuries, but in an area near homes under pro-Moscow rebel control.
Pro-Russian war reporter Semyon Pegov was rapidly at the scene saying on camera: “If to believe the video, three heavy shells fell on Stratonavtov Street “As for me these were something like 120 caliber mines. Here is the result of shelling, peaceful houses nearby.
“Here is another pit. Here is the tail part of one of the mines. Looks like this was 120 caliber.”
The footage comes as both sides admit an upsurge in attacks across the contact line between government and rebel-held territory.
Cross-trench shelling between Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces is not uncommon, as the Daily Mirror has witnessed first-hand in recent months.
Within minutes of arriving on the frontline a few weeks ago Ukrainian trenches came under attack from Russian-backed mortar crews firing bombs.
But the escalation marks a ramping up of hostilities in an eight-year conflict that began with the Maidan revolution in Kyiv and Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Further blatant false flag disinformation was revealed by the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, who announced an evacuation of the region to Russia.
They warned that Ukraine was poised to attack and retake Donbas claiming:
“Today their guns are aimed at civilians, at us and our children.”
The statement even claimed even the NLAW system – an anti-tank missile given to Ukraine by the UK – was being pointed at civilians, whereas it is merely a defensive missile.
The memo to locals said the evacuation would first evacuate women and children for a “temporary departure” to Rostov within the Russian Federation.
The smoke and mirrors hybrid warfare of lies and false allegation is soaring in the east of Ukraine – as well as the blatant shootings of weapons at Ukraine.
Ukraine has in the past 48 hours come under attack from machine guns,
howitzers, mortars and artillery, a stark and violent breach of a 2015
For weeks now Ukrainian commanders have ordered their troops not to react to provocations from the separatists and regular Russian forces embedded with them.
But the Daily Mirror understands Ukrainian troops have also opened fire in the past 48 hours.
More than 130,000 Russian troops are gathered on east Ukraine’s flank, along with a further 80,00 pro-Russian troops in Belarus to the north of the country.
A further 30,000 pro-Moscow separatists are in trenches and hunkered down in buildings in contested Donbas, facing tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Security Council that Washington believed Russia was planning an all-out assault on its neighbor.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
It could begin with a manufactured pretext, possibly involving a faked attack and false accusations about the separatist conflict, Blinken said.
President Biden has said: “We have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in.”
But worried Kyiv officials fear premature warnings of war play into Moscow’s hands by sowing alarm and hurting the fragile Ukrainian economy.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “Our intelligence sees every move that could pose a potential threat to Ukraine. We estimate the probability of a large-scale escalation as low.”
Among the ambiguities surrounding the Kremlin’s intentions are its plans for tens of thousands of troops staging exercises in Belarus, north of Ukraine.
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Moscow has said the troops would go back to Russia at some point after the drills end on Sunday, but has not said when.
The Russian-backed leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, landed in Moscow on Friday to discuss the troop presence with Putin, suggesting he was open to letting them stay for now.
He said: “It we take a decision, we’ll remove (the force) within 24 hours.
“If we decide a month, they’ll stay for a month. The armed forces will stay as long as needed.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Friday during a visit to Warsaw the planned sale of 250 Abrams tanks to Poland, a key NATO ally of the United States that borders Ukraine and Russia.