(WTVO) — Both the United States and Russia are testing their emergency alert channels Wednesday as tensions between the two countries grow over the fighting in Ukraine.
Following Ukrainian drone attacks on Moscow and other cities, the Russian Defense Ministry broadcast warnings on its TV stations declaring “Attention everyone! The readiness of the public warning system is being tested! Please remain calm!”
Sirens blared in cities across Russia on Wednesday morning. In some areas, schoolchildren practiced putting on gas masks.
President Vladimir Putin, who turns 71 on October 7th, has reportedly ordered large-scale drills that will simulate the country’s response to a nuclear attack, implementing martial law under a narrative that 70% of housing in the country has been destroyed.
“The main goal of the drills is to check our readiness for specific actions,” said emergencies minister Alexander Kurenkov who oversaw the drills.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management System also tested its Emergency Alert System on Wednesday, sending text messages to cellular phone customers, and alerts over broadcast television.
While these types of alerts are frequently used in targeted areas to alert people in the area to thing like tornadoes, Wednesday’s test was done across the country.
The test was slated to start at at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, although some phones started blaring just a few minutes before that. Wireless phone customers in the United States whose phones were on got a message saying: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The EAS system also allows the president to speak to the American public within 10 minutes of a national emergency, according to The Washington Post.
Federal law requires the systems be tested at least once every three years. The last nationwide test was Aug. 11, 2021.
FEMA has said that the test was to “ensure that the systems continue to be effective” so “the public understands and uses these alerts and warnings about emergencies, particularly those on the national level, as we work to strengthen emergency readiness among our communities.”
A Kremlin-backed nuclear research center has called upon Putin to “test an atomic bomb to intimidate the West,” The Times reported.
“Satellite imagery and aviation data suggest that Russia may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile – or may have recently tested one – with a theoretical range of thousands of miles,” reported The New York Times.
In February 2022, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert and deployed tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus.
Analysts believe Russia’s test may be meant to instill fear in Russians and villanize the West in a bid to crack down on the civilian authority and isolate the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.