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To Avoid Confrontation With Russia, U.S. Cancels Test of Ballistic Missiles Scheduled for This Weekend

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The Pentagon announced Wednesday it will delay its test of intercontinental Minuteman III ballistic missiles scheduled for this weekend in the midst of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s attack on Ukraine so he does not ‘misunderstand’ the move.

Defense Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the move is a show of ‘restraint’ after the Russian leader put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert and continues his assault on Ukraine.

‘This is not a step backwards in our readiness,’ he assured during his press briefing Wednesday.

Kirby said at the top of the event: ‘I often come out here and tell you what we have done both in terms of exercises and operations. Today, I want to talk a little bit about something that we’re not going to do, and I want to explain why.’

‘Last weekend, as you saw, President Putin directed a special alert of Russian nuclear forces. Now, in this time of heightened tensions, the United States and other members of the international community rightly saw this as a dangerous and irresponsible and, as I said before, an unnecessary step.’

‘In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued, the Secretary of Defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed,’ he announced.

‘We did not take this decision lightly but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power,’ Kirby added.

Russia stepped up its attacks on Ukraine’s major cities on Wednesday as officials in Mariupol said a ‘full-scale genocide’ was underway as Putin’s men unleashed a 15-hour artillery barrage while Kharkiv also came under heavy bombardment in a dark sign of what could come to be in the capital of Kyiv.

Ukraine’s emergency services estimate that 2,000 civilians have been killed so far during Russia’s invasion, though that figure is likely to be an under-count considering it does not take into account Wednesday’s figures.

Mariupol, located in the south of Ukraine on the Black Sea, has been surrounded by Russian forces and struck by artillery in an apparent attempt to bomb the city into submission as Putin’s men resort to ‘medieval’ tactics. Sergiy Orlov, the deputy mayor, said entire districts had been leveled with such heavy barrages that medics cannot get in to retrieve the dead.

‘We are near to a humanitarian catastrophe,’ he said. ‘Russian forces are several kilometers away on all sides,’ he added. ‘The Ukrainian army is brave and they will continue to defend the city, but Russia does not fight with their army, they just destroy districts… We are in a terrible situation.’

Meanwhile Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, came under heavy barrage in the early hours as Russian troops try to surround and seize it after days of fighting – with a rocket slamming into a university building and police station in the early hours before the city council was also struck, with one of the explosions caught in a dramatic video.

The bombardment gives a dark taste of what is likely to come for other cities such as Kyiv after analysts warned Russia’s military – having suffered heavy losses trying to pull off ambitious precision strikes – was likely to resort to surrounding cities and bombing them into submission to force a bloody victory.

The delay of missile testing comes after the U.S. Air Force flexed its military muscles Tuesday at one of its airbases in Japan, showcasing a fleet of more than two dozen warplanes in an apparent effort to deter Chinese forces from invading the self-governing island of Taiwan.

The display of military might at Kadena Air Base, which officials called a ‘routine wing readiness exercise,’ comes two days after President Joe Biden dispatched several former senior defense staffers to the island nation in a show of support, as many wonder whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could trigger a Chinese invasion of the country.

Despite the missile testing delay, the U.S. is still showing its military force in other ways. Air Force craft participated in a so-called ‘Elephant Walk’ Tuesday at an air base in Japan in an apparent move to deter China from taking Russia’s lead and invading Taiwan

The so-called ‘Elephant Walk’ – a term referring to the taxiing of large numbers of military aircraft before takeoff, when they are in close formation – saw a grouping of two dozen F-15 fighter aircraft and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, collectively valued at just over a billion dollars.

The fleet of jets are assigned to the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons, better known by their colloquial epithets, the Vampires and the Fighting Cocks, respectively. The chopper belongs to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which boasts the motto ‘That Others May Live.’

The formation also featured a $50 million KC-135 Stratotanker refueling plane, assigned to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, as well as a $270million E-3 Sentry aerial command and control craft, assigned to the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron.

The show of force comes after months of mounting and increased Chinese aggression directed at Taiwan, including nine Chinese aircraft entering the nation’s airspace Thursday – the day Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

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