Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Putin says Russia has successfully tested 'flying Chernobyl' nuclear missile

Vladimir Putin says Russia has successfully tested a new and much-feared nuclear missile reportedly capable of flying for weeks on end.

The president yesterday confirmed the first successful trial of the Burevestnik – dubbed the ‘flying Chernobyl’ due to its potentially devastating impact.

The launch follows 13 previous attempts deemed unsuccessful.

Speaking at an annual gathering of analysts and journalists, he also said his country had almost completed work on its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile system, another key element of its new generation of nuclear weapons.

Putin declined to rule out the possibility Russia could carry out weapons tests involving actual nuclear explosions for the first time in more than three decades.

The Russian leader, who since last year’s invasion of Ukraine has repeatedly reminded the world of his country’s nuclear powers, said no one in their right mind would use nuclear weapons against his nation.

If such an attack occurred, he said, ‘such a number of our missiles – hundreds, hundreds – would appear in the air that not a single enemy would have a chance of survival’.

The Burevestnik is viewed as a game-changing ‘doomsday’ weapon with a range of up to 14,000 miles, meaning it could strike the US mainland from anywhere in Russia.

‌It is seen by the Kremlin as a low-flying ‘stealth’ cruise missile incapable of interception by existing Western air defences and delivering nuclear warheads anywhere around the globe.

Some experts have claimed it could be capable of flying for weeks on end.

‌Putin has called it ‘a radically new type of weaponry’ with ‘unlimited range and unlimited ability to manoeuvre’.

Although he hailed the latest test a success, he did not provide any details.

Russia’s most recent test involving a nuclear explosion took place in 1990 – the year before the fall of the Soviet Union – but yesterday Putin declined to rule out a return to such testing.

He pointed out the US had not ratified the treaty that bans nuclear tests, unlike his own nation that had both signed and ratified it.

He added, however, that it would be theoretically possible for the Russian government, the Duma, to revoke its ratification.

Military analysts say that if either Russia or the US or both begin nuclear testing again it could have a profoundly destabilising effect at a time when tensions between the two countries are greater than they have been for 60 years.

In February, Putin suspended Russia’s participation in the New START treaty that limits the number of nuclear weapons each side can deploy.

But Putin said Russia doesn’t need to rewrite its doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, which allows it to fire them in response to a nuclear attack from another country or if there is a threat to the existence of the state.

In response to a question from Russian analyst Sergei Karaganov, who is keen to lower the threshold for nuclear use, Putin said: ‘I simply don’t see the need for this.

‘There is no situation today in which, say, something would threaten Russian statehood and the existence of the Russian state. No. I think no person of sound mind and clear memory would think of using nuclear weapons against Russia.’

Among Russia’s previous 13 unsuccessful tests of the Burevestnik was one in 2019, which left seven people dead.

They had apparently tried to salvage the weapon, but no explanation was given as to how they died.

Putin did, however, call them ‘national heroes’.

There was international speculation earlier this week that a new test was about to happen after satellite photos and aviation data suggested preparations were underway.

It is thought the launch was timed to coincide with Putin’s 71st birthday.

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