Russia’s nuclear submarines fire cruise missiles in military drills opposite Alaska
- The drills hit targets at a distance of 400km in the Chukchi Sea, an eastern stretch of Arctic Ocean that separates Russia from the US state of Alaska
- Russia sees its Arctic territory as a vital strategic interest and has built up its military capabilities in the region, raising alarm bells in the West
Russian nuclear-powered submarines fired cruise missiles in the Arctic on Friday as part of military drills designed to test Moscow’s readiness for a possible conflict in its icy northern waters, the defence ministry said.
The drills, named Umka-2022, took place in the Chukchi Sea, an eastern stretch of the Arctic Ocean that separates Russia from the US state of Alaska.
Russia sees its vast Arctic territory as a vital strategic interest and has been building up its military capabilities in the region for years, raising alarm bells in the West.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday two nuclear-powered submarines – the Omsk and Novosibirsk – fired anti-ship cruise missiles from the Chukchi Sea, hitting targets at a distance of 400 kilometres (250 miles).
It published a video on social media which it said showed the missiles being launched from vessels situated at points of the Northern Sea Route – a commercial transport channel Russia is promoting as an alternative option for cargo ships travelling between Europe and Asia.
Moscow has continued a programme of high-profile military exercises even as the bulk of its land forces are engaged in the war in Ukraine. Earlier this month it conducted scaled-down war games in the Russian Far East with some 50,000 troops taking part.
Those exercises came just as a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive that forced Russian troops to abandon swathes of territory in the eastern Kharkiv region of Ukraine was getting under way.
The defence ministry said this week’s Arctic drills were a test of Russia’s “ability and readiness to defend the Russian arctic by military means”.
In addition to the missile launches from nuclear-powered submarines, Russia’s “Bastion” coastal missile system also fired missiles at sea-based targets at a distance of 300 kilometres from the Chukchi Peninsula – Russia’s easternmost territory.
Russia’s militarisation of the Arctic region has caused disquiet in Western capitals, other Arctic nations and among environmental groups. Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last month Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic presented a “strategic challenge” for the Nato alliance.