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Europe

Russia tests ballistic missile amid tension over Ukraine

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-05

Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions running high over its military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions running high over its military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

A US official said the US had received proper notification from Russia ahead of the test and that the initial notification pre-dated the crisis in Crimea.

The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, a Russian defence ministry spokesman told state-run news agency RIA.

The launch site, Kapustin Yar, is near the Volga River about 450 km (280 miles) east of the Ukrainian border. Kazakhstan, a Russian ally in a post-Soviet security grouping, is further to the east.

The test launch came at a moment of high tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine, where the Crimean peninsula remains under de facto control by Kremlin-backed troops.

‘Routine test’

US officials declined to comment on the effect of the missile test on Russia's relations with Washington.

"This was a previously notified and routine test launch of an ICBM," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council.

"Such advance notifications are intended to provide transparency, confidence, and predictability and to help both sides avoid misunderstandings," she said in a statement.

Russia conducts test launches of its ICBMs fairly frequently and often announces the results, a practice seen as intended to remind the West of Moscow’s nuclear might and reassure Russians.

Russia and the US signed the latest of a series of treaties restricting the numbers of ICBMs in 2010, but Moscow has indicated it will agree to further cuts in the near future and is taking steps to upgrade its nuclear arsenal.

Anti-missile conflict

President Vladimir Putin has emphasised that Russia must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent, in part because of an anti-missile shield the US is building in Europe which Moscow says could undermine its security.

The Russian defence ministry said the test could help Russia improve its capability of foiling anti-missile shields, RIA reported.

Moscow has expressed concern that US interceptors could shoot down some of its ICBMs in flight, weakening its arsenal.

The US says the shield is meant to protect against threats from states such as Iran and poses no threat to Russia.

The 20-metre (60-foot) long RS-12M, known in NATO parlance as the SS-25 Sickle, was first put into service in 1985, six years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and is designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Its range is 10,500 km (6,000 miles).

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-03-05

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