MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin took a leading role in the latest tests of Moscow's strategic nuclear arsenal, the most comprehensive since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

The exercises, held mostly on Friday, featured prominently in news reports on state television which seemed aimed to show Russians and the world that Putin is the hands-on chief of a resurgent power.

Tests involving command systems and all three components of the nuclear "triad" - land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles and strategic bombers - were conducted "under the personal leadership of Vladimir Putin," the Kremlin said.

An RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia, and a submarine test-launched another ICBM from the Sea of Okhotsk, the Defence Ministry said. Long-range Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers fired four guided missiles that hit their targets on a testing range in the northwestern Komi region, it said.

"Exercises of the strategic nuclear forces were conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia," the Kremlin statement said.

Russia says it is modernizing a nuclear arsenal that was largely created during the Cold War.

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