Vladimir Putin Launches Four Ballistic Missiles in Nuclear Forces Drill Across Russia

Russian Topol M ballistic missiles on launchers drive during a rehearsal for the Victory parade on Moscow's Red Square May 5, 2014. Russia celebrates victory over Nazi Germany on May 9. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally took part in a late-night military drill of his nuclear-capable forces that launched four missiles across Russia, activating air and naval forces, the Kremlin announced.

The drill launched two ballistic missiles from east to west, landing in Russia's northwestern Arkhangelsk region and another two missiles were launched from the west of the country, landing in eastern Kamchatka, which is separated from Alaskan territory by the Bering Sea.

Tensions between Moscow and its western neighbors have been at a post-Cold War high since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its neighbor in the far-east, North Korea, is itself currently engaged in a tense nuclear posturing showdown with the U.S. Missiles flew near border regions both eastwards and westwards.

As part of Russia's drill that took place on Thursday night, Russian forces launched the intercontinental ballistic missile Topol, tested as recently as last month, when troops fired one toward a range in Kazakhstan. Variations of the missile have a range of up to 10,500 kilometers, according to Global Security.

"The commander in chief carried out the launch of the four ballistic rockets," Putin's spokesman said, following the drill on Thursday, state news agency Itar-Tass reported. The administration usually does not take part in most military tests, leaving the announcements of it to the Ministry of Defense.

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The drill took place after sundown and included two nuclear submarines, which launched three of the four missiles, while the Topol was launched from a silo on the ground in Plesetsk, around the northwest.

In separate maneuvers that were part of the drill, warplanes Tu-160, Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3 practiced hitting ground targets, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. The practice air raids took place in Russia's western Saratov and Kaluga regions, as well as in its far-eastern Amur region.

The Ministry of Defense's statement at the end of the drill announced that all had gone according to plan and "all training targets were successfully hit." The ministry's YouTube channel released video snippets of the nighttime drill, showing the missile launches and the jets taking off.

Russia's military is divided into four districts in the east, south, center and west, as well as a command for its Northern Fleet in the northwest. The split into four commands was introduced in 2010, with an update in 2014 to include a naval command in Severomorsk for Arctic naval activity. Daniele Palumbo/Newsweek Media Group

The Russian press is still anticipating a test of Russia's intercontinental ballistic missile upgrade, known as the Sarmat. Popular daily newspaper Kommersant reported earlier this week that a well-informed source close to the defense ministry said the much-delayed test launch of the Sarmat will take place before the end of the year.

The expected launch, which Russia's military has neither confirmed nor denied, will reportedly take place on the same cosmodrome where Putin launched the Topol missile from on Thursday—Plesetsk.