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Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would deploy its newest intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of reaching Britain in three minutes, by the end of the year.
The Russian president, who on Tuesday hosted military academy graduates at a lavish ceremony at the Kremlin, said that his country would continue to boost its military capabilities that have been dented by losses in Ukraine.
“We will continue to develop and strengthen our armed forces, taking into account potential military threats and risks,” he said, hailing Russian troops in Ukraine for fighting “with courage, professionalism: like real heroes”.
“There is no doubt we will be even stronger,” he added.
As part of those efforts, Russia would place the first batch of Sarmat, its newly tested intercontinental ballistic missile, on combat duty before the end of the year, Putin said.
The missile, also known as Satan II, has a range of 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) and can deliver between 10 to 15 nuclear warheads at a hypersonic speed while bypassing most radar and missile defence systems.
Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, the commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces, told Russian state TV last month that the Sarmat missiles can fly different trajectories, evading enemy missile defence.
“There is no existing air defence for the Sarmat missile systems, and it will probably not exist in the coming decades,” he said.
Other major new additions to the Russian arsenal will include S-500 missile defence systems that, according to Putin, “are unmatched in the world”.
It came after a Russian television host warned in May that Russia could “sink” Britain “once and for all” with a nuclear missile strike or a torpedo that would send a radioactive tsunami.
Dmitry Kiselyov, a state television executive and one of Russia’s most notorious propagandists, said on an episode of his weekly show that the British Isles are “so small that one Sarmat missile will be enough to sink it once and for all”.
In the next segment, full of computer-generated graphics, the television host showed how a Russian Poseidon torpedo could “plunge Britain into depths of the sea”.
Russia successfully tested Sarmat in April amid heavy fighting in Ukraine, raising the prospect of a nuclear confrontation with the West.
Just last month, the head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, warned the West that unless they “talk politely” to the Kremlin, Russia would target it with Sarmat missiles.
Dmitry Rogozin, who is also a close Putin ally, described Sarmat as “the most powerful nuclear missile in the world” and boasted that it could demolish “half the coast of a continent” of an enemy of Russia.
Showdown over Lithuania blockade
Putin’s sabre-rattling came amid a showdown with EU member Lithuania, which severely restricted the flow of goods between mainland Russia and its westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad, citing EU sanctions.
A top ally of Putin told Lithuania on Tuesday that Moscow would respond to its ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to Kaliningrad in such a way that citizens of the Baltic state would feel the pain.
Nikolai Patrushev, a former KGB spy who is now the secretary of Russia’s security council, said that Lithuania’s “hostile” actions showed that Russia could not trust the West, which he said had broken written agreements over Kaliningrad.
“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions,” Patrushev was quoted as saying by the Ria state news agency.