Defense forces: Russia's annual nuclear drill smaller than expected

Brigadier General Enno Mõts.
Brigadier General Enno Mõts. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The scale of Russia's annual nuclear drill was comparable to previous years, despite the fact that a larger display of force was expected given the current situation, Brig. Gen. Enno Mõts, chief of staff of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), said on Friday.

"We are pleased to see that significant progress is taking place on the north-eastern front in the Luhansk oblast, where Russian troops are not only preparing, but also retreating from their positions," Mõts said at a press conference held by the Defense Ministry.

Retreating troops have reached the Aidar river line where geography permits them to better prepare for and maintain their position.

"On the other side, in the eastern Donetsk oblast, the Russians are showing their teeth by mounting counterattacks, which Ukrainian forces have thus far effectively repelled," Mõts said.

Mõts said that the situation in the Kherson oblast is largely steady.

"We are observing robust preparations for defensive positions, and it is evident that the Russians intend to maintain control of this area and front line."

This week, Russia conducted its annual nuclear drill, which was comparable in size to those of previous years.

"We can affirm that during the drill, a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea and a missile complex in the Plessetsky polygon fired towards the Kura polygon in Kamchatka," he said.

"The exercise itself was smaller than expected, but in the large scheme of things, it was comparable to previous ones."

"Putin's rhetoric has been powerful, and the importance of the deterrent message to the West should be even greater, given that nuclear drills are conducted annually and a war is on," Mõts said. "So given the current situation, we were expecting a bigger message."

One possible explanation is that Russia does not have enough ballistic missiles. "On the other side, it may also serve a political agenda. As a so-called good world ruler, the Russian still leaves some back doors open to the outside world," Mõts added.

"Regarding mobilization, we believe that despite President Putin's official statements covert mobilization will continue. By the end of the year, the so-called target number of 300,000 recruits is expected to be met," Mõts explained.

Regardless of the inadequate equipment, the arrival of new recruits at the front poses a significant risk, Mõts said.

"We will talk about it next spring when this mass will start to produce changes on the front lines," he said. "The mobilization has had no effect on the front so far."

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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