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THE WORLD

Russia Deploys Nuclear Missiles

The Topol-M can fly more than 6,000 miles. Modernization will continue, officials say.

December 23, 2003|From Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russia has deployed several of its top-of-the-line strategic nuclear missiles after a break caused by a funding shortage, and military officials presented ambitious plans Monday for building more potent weapons.

"This is the most advanced, state-of-the-art missile in the world," Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov said in remarks broadcast on Russian television. "Only such weapons can ensure and guarantee our sovereignty and security and make any attempts to put military pressure on Russia absolutely senseless."

Ivanov inaugurated the new set of Topol-M missiles at the Tatishchevo missile base in the central Saratov region Sunday, describing them as a "21st century weapon" unrivaled in the world.

U.S. military analysts equate the missile, known as the SS-27 in the West, with the American Minuteman III, the older of the two land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in the U.S. inventory.

Ivanov on Monday reported the deployment to President Vladimir V. Putin, saying the military would continue modernizing all components of the nation's nuclear forces.

The Interfax-Military News Agency said six Topol-Ms were deployed Sunday.

The missiles, capable of hitting targets more than 6,000 miles away, have so far been deployed in silos. Its mobile version, mounted on a heavy off-road vehicle, is set to become operational next year, the Strategic Missile Forces chief, Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, said in televised remarks.

In Washington, a State Department official said the latest Topol-M deployment was regarded as a continuation of the Russian program that started in 1998 and did not violate strategic weapons treaties.

The new deployment is consistent with what the Russian government had told the U.S. government to expect, the official said.

Next year, design work will start on a next-generation heavy nuclear missile, which will enter service after 2009, an officer told Interfax. The new missile will be capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads with a total weight of up to 4.4 tons, compared with Topol-M's combat payload of 1.32 tons, he said.

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