Russia holds exercise as tensions with Ukraine escalate

This handout video grab released by the Russian Defence Ministry on February 19, 2022 shows a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launching during a training launch as part of the Grom-2022 Strategic Deterrence Force exercise at an undefined location in Russia. (HANDOUT / RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY / AFP)

MOSCOW – Under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia's strategic deterrence forces conducted large-scale drills on Saturday as the Ukrainian crisis flared up.

Putin watched the exercise from the situation center at the Kremlin together with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin watched the exercise from the situation center at the Kremlin together with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin said in a statement

Russia's Aerospace Forces, the Southern Military District, the Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Black Sea Fleets were involved in the drills, according to the statement.

The Aerospace Forces launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, while ships and submarines of the Northern and Black Sea Fleets fired Kalibr cruise missiles and Tsirkon hypersonic missiles against sea and ground targets.

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An Iskander ground-based cruise missile was launched from a training ground in the Astrakhan region in southern Russia, and a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from northwest Russia's Plesetsk cosmodrome against a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula.Tu-95MS strategic bombers fired cruise missiles, while the Karelia strategic nuclear submarine of the Northern Fleet launched a Sineva ballistic missile from the Barents Sea towards the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Kremlin said that the strategic deterrence exercise was "planned previously," during which the combat readiness of the troops and the reliability of the weapons were checked.

All the tasks were completed in full and all the missiles hit the designated targets, it added. 

This handout video grab released by the Russian Defence Ministry on Feb 19, 2022, shows a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launching during a training launch as part of the Grom-2022 Strategic Deterrence Force exercise at an undefined location in Russia. (HANDOUT / RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY / AFP)

Meanwhile, Russia's Investigative Committee said Saturday that it has initiated a criminal case against an attempted murder after "Ukrainian paramilitaries" shelled the border area of Russia's Rostov region.

From 5:00 to 6:00 am local time on Saturday, unidentified persons on the territory of Ukraine attacked the border area of the Rostov region by using a multiple launch rocket system, the committee said in a statement.

No casualties among the civilians were reported, and an investigation is underway, it added.

Explosions were reported in the border area of the Rostov region as a large number of refugees are fleeing from Ukraine's Donbass to Russia to escape a possible war.

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On Friday, Putin ordered the acting head of the emergencies ministry to urgently fly to the Rostov region to organize on-site work on providing refugees with accommodation, hot meals and other necessities, including medical care.

Hours after the shelling was reported, Sputnik reported that the Ukrainian foreign ministry denied the allegation, saying Kiev made no such attacks.