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Putin warns on Euro missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying Wednesday that Russia will retaliate by fielding new weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.

While the Russian leader didn't say what specific new weapons Moscow could deploy, his statement further raised the ante in tense relations with Washington.

Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address, Putin charged that the U.S. has abandoned a key arms control pact to free up its hands to build new missiles and tried to shift the blame for the move to Russia.

"Our American partners should have honestly said it instead of making unfounded accusations against Russia to justify their withdrawal from the treaty," Putin said.

The U.S. has accused Russia of breaching the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty by deploying a cruise missile that violates its limits — the accusations Moscow has rejected.

The INF treaty banned production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.

The intermediate-range weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they take shorter time to reach their targets compared to the intercontinental ballistic missiles. That would leave practically no time for decision-makers, raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.

Putin reaffirmed that Russia will not be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles but warned of a quick retaliation if the U.S. puts such weapons in Europe.

"They will only take 10-12 minutes to reach Moscow," he said. "It's a very serious threat to us, and we will have to respond."

He didn't directly mention the U.S., but noted that the Russian response will be "asymmetrical" and involve new weapons will reach the enemy's decision-making centres just as quickly.

"Russia will be forced to create and deploy new types of weapons that could be used not only against the territories where a direct threat to us comes from, but also against the territories where decision-making centres directing the use of missile systems threatening us are located," he said. "The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centres, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia."

The president didn't specify which of the prospective Russian weapons will do the job, but he reported a quick progress on an array of new weapons presented a year ago.

The Russian leader said the first batch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles will be deployed this year. Putin said the development of a vehicle that the military said is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound was a technological achievement comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

He added that the tests of the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have been progressing successfully.



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