Russia announced it would be conducting its yearly strategic drills Saturday involving nuclear weapons in a dramatic escalation during the ongoing standoff with the West over Ukraine.

On Friday, the Russian defense ministry said that these drills would begin on Saturday and that they would involve test launches of cruise and ballistic missiles across Russia’s vast territory. These maneuvers will be personally supervised by Russian President Vladimir Putin as in previous years.

"On February 19, a planned drill of the forces of the strategic containment will be held under the leadership of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, during which ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched," said a ministry statement.

In the U.S., the announcement was expected for weeks after military and intelligence officials briefed members of Congress that Russia would be conducting these drills earlier than planned. According to the Financial Times, the officials told lawmakers that the exercises were likely to convey a message to the West that they should not interfere in Russian actions against Ukraine.

The nuclear weapon drills all but smother a belief earlier this week that there remained a diplomatic path forward. In a televised meeting with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Putin appeared to express an openness to more talks to defuse the crisis over Ukraine. At the same time, Russia publicly declared that it would be pulling some of its units back to their permanent garrisons away from the Ukrainian border.

Any sense of relief was short-lived. President Joe Biden and NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said separately that they saw no sign of a Russian withdrawal, but instead a redeployment of fresh forces to join the approximately 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian borders with Russia and Belarus.

In a heated exchange at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out in stark detail what Washington believed would precipitate a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Blinken said that Russia was laying the groundwork for a variety of false flag scenarios to justify an attack on its neighbor and he implored the global community to resist this.

That same day, Biden said it was his expectation that a Russian attack was imminent.

"Every indication that we have is that they are prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine," Biden said outside the White House. "My sense is it will happen within the next several days.”