Russia tests nuclear missile amid war of words with US

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia conducted its second intercontinental ballistic missile test in less than a month on Friday as it stepped up its campaign against a US-backed interceptor system for Europe.

News reports said the Sineva missile was launched from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea and later successfully hit its target on the opposite side of the country on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

"The launch was conducted from a submerged position," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.

"The warheads hit the test range on schedule," he added.

The Sineva submarine-launched missile is one of the most recent additions to Russia's nuclear arsenal and was only fully tested for the first time in 2008.

Each missile carries up to 10 warheads and has a range of more than 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles).

It was the second submerged missile launch conducted by Russia since April 26.

Russia occasionally tests its heavy nuclear missiles as it upgrades outdated models with new features and capabilities.

But the tests are also often seen as a show of force that coincide with diplomatic tensions with the West.

Russia had scaled back its testing programme as it negotiated a new nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States that went into effect after nearly a decade of tortuous negotiations earlier this year.

Yet Moscow is currently furious with Washington for pushing ahead with plans to deploy a missile defence system for Europe -- a shield that Russia fears could one day be transformed into an offensive weapon that targets its soil.

Russia has demanded an equal say in how the system works and also sought formal security safeguards from the United States confirming the shield's peaceful long-term intent.

But both the United States and NATO have refused to let Russia have an equal say in the system's construction and operation. Moscow diplomats said Washington has also refused their safeguards request.

President Dmitry Medvedev warned earlier this week that Washington's failure to address Russia's concerns could lead to a new Cold War and his comments were echoed on Friday by the chief of the military's general staff.

General Nikolai Makarov said the system could pose a direct challenge to Russia's security once it becomes more powerful in 2015 and force Moscow to channel funds on new weapons development that could lead to "a mad arms race".

"No one needs a new round of the arms race," Makarov said.

© 2011 AFP

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