Vladimir Putin has ordered nationwide nuclear drills to prepare Russia for ‘armed conflicts involving nuclear powers’, in an apparent bid to instill fear in his people and garner support for his war in Ukraine.
Sirens and loudspeakers were sounded in all regions across Russia’s 11 time zones in drills that spanned two days, starting on Tuesday – although many in cities like Novosibirsk and Vladivostok heard nothing at all.
Television broadcasts were interrupted suddenly to test systems with the same message relayed: ‘Attention, everyone! There is a check of readiness of the warning system to the population. Please remain calm!’
In some areas, schoolchildren were drilled in how to put on gas masks, while officials elsewhere were forced into bunkers.
Experts say the tests were aimed at instilling fear in the population as Putin cracks down on domestic dissent and prepares for a possible re-election bid next year.
The drills were organised to simulate how Russia would respond if 70 per cent of its housing facilities had been destroyed.
In some areas, people were taught how to quickly put on gas masks in the event of catastrophe
Children in schools were drilled on how to wear gas masks properly, in case of nuclear war
Some simulated drills of moving to protective fallout shelters or bunkers. The drills were supposed to imitate how Russia would react in the event 70% of housing was destroyed
The nationwide exercise was based on the assumption of a giant nuclear attack from the West.
The tests acted as if martial law had been introduced and that Russian had gone through full mobilisation.
Two fallout shelters were used in Volgograd, the city formerly known as Stalingrad. One was able to accommodate up to 36,000 people.
‘The main goal of the drills is to check our readiness for specific actions,’ said emergencies minister Alexander Kurenkov who oversaw the drills.
Onlookers have warned that the drills may in fact be aimed at controlling the population, presenting the West as a nuclear threat and aggressor.
Irina Tsukerman, a national security lawyer and geopolitical analyst, and President of Scarab Rising, told Daily Express US: ‘Putin is not seriously concerned about possibility of a nuclear or other major scale attack by NATO.’
She said drone attacks on buildings [by Ukraine] do not warrant such major preparations across the country.
‘The practice of martial law is particularly useful as Putin continues to crack down and isolate Russia from external influence,’ she told The Express.
Russia has build a steady censorship campaign spanning multiple industries to curb dissent during the war in Ukraine.
In September, an opposition outlet claimed pro-Kremlin media had received a memo issuing guidelines on how to report on speculation Russia might be looking to recruit more reservists to funnel into its invasion.
Also last month, State Duma Deputy Anton Gorelkin said that Russia should consider blocking WhatsApp in Russia if the app launches Russian language channels.
State censor Roskomnadzor added that Russia could block WhatsApp if it disseminates prohibited information as the application prepares to launch a channel feature to feature over 150 countries, likely including Russia.
Putin is now expected to announce he will take part in the upcoming March 2024 election.
Kommersant reported this week he was poised to seek re-election for the next six-years, citing unidentified sources close to the presidential administration.
Sixteen months since Russia launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, support for the war remains high on paper, although 20 per cent say they oppose it.
This is a nine per cent fall in support since last year, based on Gallup World Poll polling.
Researchers note the difficulty in getting valid and reliable data.
‘Even if the baseline result may be affected by self-censorship … shifts in the trend over time show that people are willing to report changes in opinion,’ said senior regional editor Galina Zapryanova.
In a real nuclear war, President Vladimir Putin would be in charge. During the drills this week, emergencies minister Alexander Kurenkov oversaw the simulations
The simulations were set up as a planned response to the obliteration of territories in Russia
It was unclear if Putin played any secret role in the drills over the last two days.
In the event of nuclear war, Putin would be in charge of Russia’s response.
During the drills, Kurenkov headed the efforts.
The simulations this week were set up as a planned response to the complete obliteration of territories in Russia.
The scenario for the test reads: ‘In some constituent entities [regions] of the Russian Federation, as a result of emergencies or other types of physical impact, complete destruction of life support facilities and up to 70 per cent of the housing stock is possible’.
It envisioned ‘accidents at hydraulic structures, chemically and radiation hazardous facilities’ resulting in ‘secondary hazards’.
Under the playbook, the Kremlin put all government structures on civil defence standby.
The document outlining Russia’s civil nuclear defence drill warned: ‘The risk of armed conflicts escalating into local and regional wars, including those involving nuclear powers, is increasing.
‘The threat to the safety of the population is posed by the risk of the use by a possible by the enemy of modern long-range means of defeat, as well as possible attacks using unmanned aerial and watercraft.’
The Putin regime had ‘taken a decision to develop measures aimed at increasing the readiness of civil defence forces and means to take measures to protect the population, material and cultural property on the territory of the Russian Federation, including general evacuation from danger zones.’
A message shown on TV and read through loudspeakers says: ‘Attention, everyone! There is a check of readiness of the warning system to the population. Please remain calm’
Russia holds nationwide nuclear drills on 3 October 2023 in preparation for ‘the danger of armed conflicts involving nuclear powers’
Critics see the drills as Putin’s regime portraying the West as an aggressor – when he started the war in Ukraine.
They fear he is hyping the threat of nuclear attack in a desperate bid to frighten his people into backing his ‘patriotic’ agenda ahead of a presidential election in March.