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Russia to continue improving combat readiness of nuclear forces, says Putin

December 22, 2022

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia will continue developing its military potential and the combat readiness of nuclear forces against the backdrop of Moscow’s offensive in Western-backed Ukraine.

“The armed forces and combat capabilities of our armed forces are increasing constantly and every day. And this process, of course, we will build up on,” Putin said during a televised meeting with his country’s high-ranking officers.

He added that Russia will also “improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad.”

The Russian leader highlighted the new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, which Russian troops will be able to use beginning January. “In early January, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate will be equipped with the new Zircon hypersonic missile, which has no equivalent in the world,” Putin said.

Nearly ten months into the fighting, Russia has faced a series of humiliating setbacks on the ground in Ukraine.

The Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russian servicemen in Ukraine are fighting “the combined forces of the West” there.

Shoigu also said that Moscow plans to use two Ukrainian port cities on the Sea of Azov that its troop seized during the offensive.

“The ports in Berdyansk and Mariupol are fully functioning. We plan to deploy there bases for support vessels, emergency rescue services and ship repair units of the navy,” Shoigu added.

Putin also said the Russian military’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile will enter service shortly.

The Sarmat is intended to replace aging Soviet-built ballistic missiles and form the core of Russia’s nuclear forces. Putin has hailed its capacity to dodge missile defences. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the beefed-up Russian military will include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers, 521,000 of whom should be recruited by the end of 2023. The Russian military had about 400,000 contract soldiers as part of its 1-million-member military before the fighting in Ukraine began.

All Russian men aged 18 to 27 are obliged to serve in the military for one year, but many use college deferments and health exemptions to avoid the draft. Shoigu said the draft age range will be changed to 21 to 30, and the recruits will be offered a choice between serving for one year as draftees or signing a contract with the military as volunteers. He also said Russia would form new units in the country’s west in view of ambitions by Finland and Sweden to join Nato.

The Kremlin’s plans marked a return to the Soviet-era military structure, which Russia abandoned during recent reforms that saw the creation of smaller units. Some Russian military experts have argued that the more compact units intended for use in local conflicts were undermanned and underequipped for a massive conflict like the action in Ukraine.