A RUSSIAN missile cruiser has been sent to carry out “very rare” firing drills just six miles off the coast of Sweden next week, according to reports.
Northern Fleet missile cruiser the Marshal Ustinov has been deployed to the Barents Sea for live firing drills between April 4-6, TASS reported, citing the Russian Navy’s press service.
The military exercises will take place in six miles south off Karlskrona, in Sweden’s southeastern Blekinge County, Swedish newspaper Expressen reports.
The missile system tests – on the doorstep of several NATO members – come amid simmer tensions with the west following the nerve agent attack in the UK.
Crew aboard the Slava-class cruiser will conduct “a number of ship combat exercises”, including anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills, the Russian Navy said.
“This is very rare,” a source within the Swedish Armed Forces told Expressen.
A commentator for Russia Military Watch tweeted: “Bloody hell. Russian navy just reserved missile firings area for 4-6 April up to 18000m in intl waters real close to Sweden. How provocative you can go?”
Ahead of the drills, starting at 6am on Wednesday and ending at 6pm on Friday, Civil Aviation Administration issued a warning to all air traffic in the area.
Russia ordered a new wave of war drills this week following recent tensions with the West as the UK accuses Vladimir Putin of being behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
Marshal Ustinov is a Slava-class cruiser that has been in service since the days of the Soviet Union.
It weights 12,500 tons, is almost 612 ft long, and is armed with an arsenal of up to 120 missiles.
The vessel is bristling with weapons designed to blast enemy ships out the water and shoot down enemy planes.
Russia has one of the largest navy’s in the world, and Putin has been bidding to expand his sea power.
Relations between Russia and the West have plunged to lows not seen since the Cold War following the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The Kremlin denies any involvement in the incident, and has even alleged Britain might have been involved in the attempted murder.
Traces of military grade nerve agent Novichok was found on Skripal’s front door and the pair remain in a critical condition.
Skripal was a former MI6 double agent who had worked for the Russian spy services and sold secrets to the British.
The Kremlin allegation came as Moscow faced increasing global isolation, with at least 26 countries expelling a total of more than 130 suspected spies.
Britain insists there is no plausible alternative explanation for the attack, and has dismissed the series of suggestions emanating from Moscow as nonsense.
Around 250 counter terrorism detectives continue to work around the clock on the investigation, which is expected to continue for months.
Officers are examining more than 5,000 hours of CCTV footage and 1,350 exhibits that have been seized, while 500 witnesses have been identified.