Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) have begun an unannounced test of its nuclear weapons near the central Russian city Yoshkar-Ola, the SMF's press center said Wednesday.
"The Committee of the Command of Strategic Missile Forces is conducting an unannounced test of the condition and security provisions of nuclear weapons in the Yoshkar-Ola Missile Unit," the SMF's press service said in a statement.
The Yoshkar-Ola missile unit is armed with the Topol intercontinental nuclear-capable ballistic missile complex.
In February, the SMF held record-long drills that included more than 30 missile regiments. The same month, missile forces also completed command and staff exercises testing the troops' combat readiness.
In January, SMF spokesman Col. Igor Egorov said that the Russian Strategic Missile Forces planned to conduct more than 100 drills in 2015.
The Russian armed forces’ strategic missile command (RVSN) have ordered a snap inspection of the state of the nuclear arsenal in one of the country’s central military bases near the city of Yoshkar-Ola.
The surprise test, announced today by RVSN, will assess the condition of the intercontinental ballistic and nuclear missile units, as well as test the readiness of the nuclear facilities near Yoshkar-Ola in hypothetical emergency situations.
“During the tests, specific attention will be paid to matters of the command’s preparedness to eliminate hazards in the event of an accident related to the nuclear weapons and also in the instance and it will test the emergency squad of the command,” Colonel Igor Yegorov, the RVSN spokesman, told press.
While the tests will entail an assessment of the nuclear storage facilities, fire safety and general hazard-containment conditions of the Yoshkar-Ola RVSN base, according to Yegorov servicemen will also be given a rudimentary test on nuclear arms operation.
The colonel also highlighted to journalists that the Yoshkar-Ola RVSN complex is equipped with Russia’s state-of-the-art Topol missile system, the intercontinental ballistic unit developed after the fall of the USSR to replace and reinforce Russia’s Soviet-age technology.
Near the end of last month general major of the RVSN Andrey Burbin told press that all missile facilities in Russia will be overhauled almost completely by 2020, with current technology being replaced by new generation alternatives in the form of either Topol or Yars.
In January Yegorov told press the RVSN would perform more than 100 ballistic missile tests by the end of 2015.
Moscow on Thursday dismissed NATO’s allegations that Russia conducts large-scale military exercises to drill the use of nuclear weapons, the Foreign Ministry said.
"We’ve paid attention to NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow’s speech on March 2 at a conference in Doha (Qatar) on issues of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, in which he said that the conflict in Ukraine has a dimension associated with weapons of mass destruction," the ministry said in a commentary. "In particular, he made a dogmatic statement that Russia conducts large-scale military exercises to drill nuclear tasks, including the ‘nuclear component’ in the conventional weapons’ drills."
"We have again heard reproaches that Russia’s strategic aviation ostensibly performs flights closer and closer to the borders of NATO countries," the ministry said. "These allegations are totally ungrounded, and we have repeatedly proven this with facts to our foreign partners."
"Alexander Vershbow’s attempts to threated the world community with Russian nuclear weapons look inappropriate on the backdrop of NATO’s long-time practices to involve non-nuclear members of the bloc to performing ‘nuclear missions,’ i.e. to planning and drilling nuclear strikes, including delivering nuclear bombs to targets," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "For these ends, American nuclear weapons are being stored in Europe and NATO servicemen are training their uses. The latest such exercises, Steadfast Noon, were held last autumn in Italy."
"NATO’s leadership should better straighten this contradiction rather than to lay the blame on Russia, which has no nuclear weapons on others’ territories and unlike the United States keeps its reduced stockpiles of non-strategic nuclear arms in a non-deployed state," the ministry underscored.
RUSSIA says it has been conducting mock “attack runs” on NATO warships in the Black Sea as reports emerge of commercial airliners having to “dodge” prowling Russian bombers.
As tensions continue to escalate over Russia’s barely concealed involvement in the Ukrainian civil war, it has adopted an increasingly aggressive posture towards its old Cold War enemies.
The Irish Examiner reports that Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers have been flying just 40km off that nation’s coast with little regard of crossing through major international civilian flight corridors — including flights from North America.
Meanwhile, Russian media organisations say Su-30 and Su24 attack aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — freshly based in Crimea peninsula which was seized from Ukraine early last year — yesterday practised “penetrating air-air-systems” against warships from the US and Turkey.
Sputnik News reports the aggressive manoeuvres over the Black Sea yesterday involved a formation of three Su-30s and four Su24s.
The American USS Vicksberg, a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, and the Turkish frigate Turgut Reis were both the subject of mock attack runs on March 3, the news agency reports.
“These ships’ crews are doubtlessly conducting exercises in repelling air attacks from our planes, which gives our pilots the opportunity to gain experience in manoeuvring and conducting aerial reconnaissance both in the range of anti-air systems and outside their range,” The Sputnik News report reads.
The NATO warships are about to be reinforced by Canadian frigate Fregerickton and the Italian frigate Aliseo.
It’s not the first such close encounter between Russian aircraft and US warships in the area.
In April last year, at the height of the “shadow” invasion of Crimea, a Russian Su-24 strike aircraft reportedly flashed passed the destroyer USS Donald Cook within 300 metres.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the aircraft succeeded in “paralysing” the complex Aegis anti-aircraft sensor and computer system. The fighter then made up to 12 attack runs over 90 minutes.
A government crackdown on churches has Christians in Lake Worth, Fla., wondering if they live in the United States or the former Soviet Union.
Churches in Lake Worth, population 36,000, have been ordered to acquire a business license. As if the church has to get the government’s permission to preach and pray?
But wait. It gets worse, folks.
City officials were so concerned about one congregation that they dispatched a code enforcement officer cloaked in a hoodie to spy on a Southern Baptist church that was meeting in a coffee house.
Folks, it’s like the plot of a Cold War spy novel.
“Government employees are public servants and prohibited by the Constitution from inhibiting religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder of the religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel. “That is a far cry from sneaking around and into a church and acting like KGB agents.”
Staver is calling on city leaders to immediately rescind the business license mandate on churches. He is also representing Common Ground Church, the congregation that was targeted by the city’s investigator.
Pastor Mike Olive told me there had not been any problems until early last month, when he had an encounter with Andy Amoroso, a city commissioner.
“After we opened up the coffee bar and started doing services, I heard that he told people we were anti-gay,” Olive said. “So I went to his shop to ask him about that.”
I reached out to Amoroso on Wednesday but he did not return my telephone calls.
Pastor Olive told me he tried to convey to Amoroso that the church’s message is ‘Love God, Love People.’
“Our message to the gay community is the same as it is to the straight community,” he said.
The commissioner, Olive said, did not seem to appreciate his message.
“He pointed at me and said, ‘Listen, you better not have a church down there,” Olive told me.
By the strangest of coincidences, a code enforcement officer showed up for a Sunday service on Feb. 8. He was wearing a hoodie and was armed with a concealed video camera, according to the letter Liberty Counsel sent to the city.
The code enforcement officer’s notes read like something out of a KGB report.
It’s pretty shocking stuff for a city that prides itself on being a tolerant, multicultural city. But as we all know – tolerance and diversity do not extend to Christians.
“It was pretty shocking,” Pastor Olive said. “We had no prior warning.”
The following Sunday a city employee showed up again and told the church it had one week to vacate the building. They were accused of operating a church in a business rental property without a Lake Worth business license.
So why all the super-secret spy stuff? Why send an investigator to infiltrate a Southern Baptist worship service? Why not just call the pastor and explain the rules and regulations?
“It could eventually go to the special magistrate,” Waters told me. “Evidence had to be documented as to what the gentleman found when he went to visit the place on that Sunday.”
Joan Abell, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, told The Lake Worth Tribuneshe was troubled by the city regulations.
“We’ve been there 99 years and we’ve never had to have a license,” she told the newspaper. “Where do you all of a sudden say the church has to have a license to gather and pray?”
Waters could not tell me how many churches have complied with the city’s demands. Local news accounts indicate the First Baptist Church paid nearly $500 in fees to the city.
Staver said the city’s actions violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution, the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the federal Religious Land Uses and Institutionalized Persons Act.
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