The West is facing a new Cuban missile crisis unless it caves in to Putin over his NATO demands ‘here and now’, Moscow warns as Putin stages fresh war games
Videos showed the latest Russian drills – some close to Ukraine, amid fears Putin will invade if the West fails to meet his demands.
Hawkish deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov denied he was exaggerating in comparing the current crisis to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
‘No, not too much,’ he said in an interview with Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn magazine when asked if his comparison was ‘too much.’
There are fears a war could erupt between Russia and Western-ally Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Exercises in Russia’s western military district involved drills to repel a massive air strike by a simulated enemy on strategic facilities of the district, according to TV Zvezda, owned by the defence ministry. Around 1,000 servicemen took part in the war games which included ‘repulsing an attack by enemy reconnaissance and sabotage groups’ (pictured: tanks taking part in the war games)
Soldiers lie prone as they defend missile-bearing trucks during exercises in the western military district
A soldier fires a missile during Vladimir Putin’s most recent wargames amid tensions with Ukraine
Vladimir Putin addresses active and veteran Russian emergency service workers on Rescue Worker’s Dayn at the Kremlin on Monday
Ryabkov appeared to rule out a Russian compromise on seeking cast-iron guarantees that Ukraine would not join NATO, and promises not to deploy strike weapons in eastern European countries which are members of the western alliance.
‘I call on everyone considering this topic publicly to think whether it is shameful for Russia to meet Western ultimatum demands halfway,’ he said.
And he made clear that ‘if we cannot do it [through diplomacy], then open questions will emerge: what are further steps and what should we do?
‘We are against escalation, we are against conflicts, we do not draw lines in the sand, just the logic itself leads us to say that we are not ready to make peace with the current situation.’
He warned: ‘We can no longer postpone, let’s deal with this serious issue … here and now.’
He insisted: ‘We must put an end to the expansion of NATO, NATO infrastructure, NATO capabilities further east.
‘We must exclude Ukraine from joining NATO.’
His words amplified Putin’s insistence on Russian TV that ‘I want everyone to realise, both in our country and abroad, I want our partners to understand one thing…
‘It’s not that we don’t want anyone to cross a certain line.
‘It’s that we have nowhere to retreat now.
‘They have pressed us against such a line… we have nowhere to go…
‘Like I said, they will deliver missile systems to Ukraine, four to five minutes flying time to Moscow.
‘Well, where shall we move now?
‘It’s just that they’ve brought us to the state where we must tell them: ‘Stop!’ That’s what it is’.’
Hawkish deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov pictured in Vienna in June, 2020
Moscow has for weeks been massing tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces along its eastern flank, sparking fears of an invasion, though the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defence force (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions)
Ryabkov’s menacing statement comes just days after satellite images emerged showing a buildup of troops in the Crimea
A pro-Russian separatist taking part in drills at a shooting range on the outskirts of Donetsk in rebel-held Ukraine on Christmas Day
A pro-Russian separatist at a shooting range in rebel-held Ukraine on Christmas Day
Exercises in Russia’s western military district involved drills to repel a massive air strike by a simulated enemy on strategic facilities of the district, according to TV Zvezda, owned by the defence ministry.
Around 1,000 servicemen took part in the war games which included ‘repulsing an attack by enemy reconnaissance and sabotage groups’.
Weapons deployed were modern anti-aircraft missile systems S-300V, Tor-M2 and portable anti-aircraft missile systems Igla, said reports.
Footage also appeared to show the Buk-M3 surface-to-air missile system.
‘Nearly 200 units of weapons, military and special equipment were involved.’
Video showed the war games, said reports, which came despite an announcement that some 10,000 troops have left the Ukrainian border area ahead of Russia’s ten-day New Year holiday.
Russia also said that 500 reconnaissance officers had conducted live fire exercises in Rostov region, which borders Ukraine..
‘The servicemen fired standard weapons at targets simulating the enemy’s military equipment and manpower.
During the exercise, servicemen carried out live fire training with all types of standard small arms, and rehearsed army tactical shooting skills.
Severe weather conditions did not affect the training process,’ said a statement from the country’s southern military command.
‘Fire training is the basis of combat training for reconnaissance units and is carried out in any weather and terrain.’
Russian missile systems taking part in Putin’s most recent show of strength
A truck carrying a missile battery during the Boxing Day exercises
Footage also appeared to show the Buk-M3 surface-to-air missile system
Recent drills have been held in Krasnodar region, which shares a border with Ukraine, and Crimea, annexed in 2014 from Kyiv.
These involved paratroopers from the Novorossiysk Airborne Division with more than 1,200 servicemen involved.
Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the oil-rich Chechen republic, indicated forces from his region were ready to go into Ukraine if the Kremlin gave the order.
‘With Kiev’s existence, there is always a place for the West to deploy its military bases there and to dictate their demands in regard to our country,’ he said.
‘I am positive that our president would not allow it..
‘We [Chechnya] are ready to act as an infantry force to be deployed anywhere and accomplish orders without any problems.’
Russia also sent two new warships from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea Georgy Kurbatov minesweeper and the Vsevolod Bobrov logistics support vessel.
Both have passed the Strait of Gibraltar en route to the Black Sea, seen as the epicentre of the new geopolitical crisis.
In Buryatia region, Russian forces drilled with Msta-S self-propelled howitzers, according to further video footage.
How the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon in 1962
The Cuban missile crisis brought the world as close as it has ever been to nuclear war in October 1962.
After America’s failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, the Cuban strongman allowed the Soviet Union to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba – putting the warheads in easy striking distance of most of the US.
If Russia chose, it could launch the missiles at the US before Washington had a chance to retaliate.
Nikita Khrushchev and John F Kennedy during a historic meeting a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis broke out
America had already deployed ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey – putting them within easy striking distance of Moscow.
President John F Kennedy informed Americans during a television broadcast on October 22, 1962, that the Soviets had placed missiles on Cuba and that in retalation, the US would erect a blockade around the island to force Castro and Khrushchev to remove to missiles.
He announced America would be willing to use military force if necessary to deter what was seen as a threat to national security – and the world waited with baited breathe.
On October 24, 1962, another key moment came when Soviet ships heading for Cuba neared the line of U.S. vessels enforcing the blockade. An attempt to breach the blockade would most likely have resulted in a military stand-off, but Soviet ships backed down.
A U.S. invasion forces readied itself for an invasion of Cuba but were eventually stood down. Kennedy (pictured) showed restraint by not attacking the Soviets or Cubans
A flashpoint which could have triggered all-out war was when an American reconnaissance plane was shot down on October 27, 1962.
A U.S. invasion forces readied itself for an invasion of Cuba but were eventually stood down. The 35-year-old pilot of the downed plane, Major Rudolf Anderson, is considered the sole U.S. combat casualty of the Cuban missile crisis.
Throughout the tense stand-off, Khrushchev and Kennedy were in contact to try to avoid any military escalation between the two superpowers. On October 26, 1962, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy in which he offered to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for a promise by U.S. leaders not to invade Cuba.
The following day, Khrushchev sent a letter proposing that the USSR would dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their missile installations in Turkey.
Secret negotiations between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and JFK and between his brother Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, and Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin led to a deal. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said after the incident it would be the ‘last Saturday he would ever see’ as tensions continued to escalate.
The Soviets agreed to withdraw their missiles in return for America pledging not to invade Cuba. The US also secretly promised to remove obsolete missiles from Turkey. Both sides claimed victory as a way of putting a positive PR spin on the crisis.
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro enjoys a steak dinner while holding an impromptu press conference at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem during his visit to New York on September 23, 1960