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|Russia launches nuclear war games
Russia notified the United States on Tuesday that it has launched war games that involve the test launch of intercontinental missiles and flights by its heavy nuclear bombers.
Deputy Chief of Staff General Yury Baluyevsky said the manoeuvres were a standard annual event and dismissed several newspaper reports that they would be the largest since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.
"Russia has not received any statements from the United States about any violations in the course of the strategic command post exercises that are now being conducted," he told reporters.
Baluyevsky said the exercises involved all six military regions that divide the massive country and involve both sea and ground-based nuclear missile test launches.
He flatly dismissed media reports that heavy Russian nuclear bombers would drop mock missiles over the Atlantic Ocean -- a move likely to draw loud protests from the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But the General stressed that the exercises were being conducted "in order to prevent aggression and military pressure being applied to Russia."
Some political analysts speculate that the exercises are being staged to boost President Vladimir Putin's image as a military commander ahead of March 14 presidential elections.
Baluyevsky said Russia's military budget grew by 16 per cent this year compared to 2003, without providing any figures.