Further heightening tensions over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched nuclear military drills on Saturday, Reuters reported. The Kremlin said hypersonic, cruise missiles were successfully test-fired at sea and land targets.

Putin observed the drills with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a situation centre, according to the Kremlin.

Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said the exercises were carried out to “perfect the performance” of strategic forces, reported AFP.

Since early this year, Russia has amassed over 1 lakh troops at the Ukrainian border. Reports also said that 30,000 more are engaged in exercises in Belarus, close to its border with Ukraine. The two countries have been engaged in a conflict since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed separatist rebellions in the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Along with the United States, allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have rejected Russian claims that it was pulling back troops from exercises that have raised fears of an imminent invasion. The Kremlin has consistently maintained that it has no plans to invade but has for long considered NATO’s eastward expansion an existential threat.

Meanwhile, United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russian troops were beginning to “uncoil and move closer” to the border with Ukraine.

Austin said that while a Russian invasion was not inevitable, he expressed hope that Putin would de-escalate.

Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Germany and held talks at the Munich Security Conference.

At the Munich Security Conference, Zelenskyy will be meeting United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, United States Vice President Kamala Harris.

Zelenskyy is hoping for concrete agreements on providing Ukraine with additional military and financial support, said the statement.

On Friday, United States President Joe Biden, while urging for de-escalation, predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would order an invasion of Ukraine in a week, reported AFP.

“As of this moment I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said at the White House. He warned that an attack could happen in the next “week” or “days”.

Biden said that while it was not too late to dial down tensions, an invasion of Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions on Russia and that Putin would end any chance for diplomatic negotiations with military action.

In his opening remarks at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it would be “catastrophic” if the tensions between Russia and Ukraine lead to a war.