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Russia to add 40 missiles to nuclear arsenal

AFP I Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is working hard to re-establish Russia's military might

President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia will add another 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year amid growing tensions with NATO.

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Putin said the weapons would be capable of getting through any missile defences, in a blunt reminder of the nation's nuclear might amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Putin made the statement at the opening of an arms show at a shooting range in Alabino just west of Moscow, a huge display intended to showcase the nation's resurgent military strength.

Later, he warned that Russia would be forced to aim its armed forces at any countries which might threaten it and that it was concerned about anti-missile defence systems being deployed near its borders.

"We will be forced to aim our armed forces ... at those territories from where the threat comes," he said.

Putin also said after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at a presidential residence outside Moscow that Finland's best guarantee of security was its neutral status.

Russia-West relations have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The US and the EU have responded with economic sanctions against Russia, and Washington and its NATO allies have pondered an array of measures in response to Russia's moves.

The three Baltic members of the alliance, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have asked NATO to permanently deploy ground troops to their nations as a deterrent against an increasingly assertive Russia.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said Sunday that he and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter held talks about placing US heavy military equipment in Poland.

Moscow bristled at the plans, warning Washington that the deployment of new US weapons near Russian borders would foment dangerous instability in Europe.

"The United States is inciting tensions and carefully nurturing their European allies' anti-Russian phobias in order to use the current difficult situation for further expanding its military presence and influence in Europe," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a comment late Monday.

"We hope that reason will prevail and it will be possible to save the situation in Europe from sliding toward a military standoff which could entail dangerous consequences," it added.

Speaking at the arms show, Putin vowed to continue a big arms modernisation programme despite the nation's economic downturn.

He specifically mentioned the Armata tanks and other new armored vehicles, which were first shown to the public during a Red Square military parade last month, saying they "have no analogues in the world”.

Putin also noted that the military was to start testing its new long-range early warning radar intended to monitor the West.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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