RUSSIA has launched a new top-secret nuclear weapon and tested military jets carrying hypersonic missiles – as NATO countries start war games in the Black Sea.
The mysterious ballistic missile took off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the vast country’s northwest, the TASS news agency reported earlier this morning.
He cited an anonymous Kremlin defense source who claimed the top-secret operation took place in mid-June.
Reports say that the ICBM – named Kedr – was developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT) and comes in mobile variants and silos.
Mobile systems have several advantages because they are more difficult to locate, track, target and destroy.
MITT – part of the public space company Roscosmos – has already developed the dreaded Russian ICBMs Topol, Topol-M, Yars and Bulava.
The Kedr system is expected to replace the Yars nuclear weapon and would be the latest milestone in the Kremlin’s hopes of a modernized missile arsenal.
Today’s launch announcement came as military tensions in the Black Sea reached their boiling point after Moscow vowed to sink British warships if they sail too close to Crimea.
And as it was reported that Russian fighter jets and bombers carried out combat training flights in the eastern Mediterranean.
The MiG-31Ks carried deadly hypersonic Dagger missiles – one of Putin’s new-age weapons.
They have a range of 1,250 miles and have no matches in the West, according to Moscow.
Putin also deployed his Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.
During the exercises, flight crews carried out electronic missile launches at a simulated enemy.
Reports in Russian state media made it clear that the exercises were specifically scheduled to coincide with the deployment by the Royal Navy of a strike group led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Russian Defense Ministry TV station Zvezda said: “An air strike group led by the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth is currently in the Mediterranean.
“In this regard, one of the objectives of the (Russian) exercises is to monitor the actions of the aircraft carrier group.”
Moscow has also deployed the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the guided-missile frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, and the diesel-electric submarines Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don.
“The crews of the warships have trained to repel enemy air attack weapons and provide on-board air defense,” a statement from Moscow said.
“Air defense teams have honed their skills in countering air attacks. “
The Russian exercises came as it was reported that Putin said he would soon put various missile systems on “alert”, including Sarmat ICBM, Zircon hypersonic missiles and the S-500 air defense system.
The United States will begin exercises today alongside more than 30 Black Sea countries and southern Ukraine as part of Sea Breeze 2021.
They will last two weeks and will involve around 5,000 military personnel from NATO and other allies, as well as around 30 ships and 40 aircraft.
The American guided-missile destroyer USS Ross and the US Marine Corps will also participate in the maneuvers and have been sighted in the Ukrainian port of Odessa.
The war games continue despite repeated calls by Russia to cancel them because it believes they pose a threat to its national security.
Putin’s army claimed last week that it fired warning shots and dropped bombs on the way to a British warship to drive it out of the Black Sea waters off the coast of Crimea.
HMS Defender has been charged with “deliberate provocation” by the Kremlin while entering waters deemed to be Russian territory.
The 8,500-ton vessel was placed on red alert when, according to Putin’s Defense Ministry, it crossed Russia’s maritime border near Cape Fiolent.
The BBC reported that more than 20 planes were flying over the Royal Navy ship with two Russian Coast Guard boats only 100 meters away at times.
A Russian Coast Guard boat barked “change course or I shoot” during the Black Sea confrontation.
A Defense Ministry spokesperson later denied that the bombs were dropped in the way of the British ship and that the fire was directed at it.
The incident was the last clash between the West and Russia in the Black Sea, which has seen numerous clashes between warships and warplanes.
It also happened as Ukraine reportedly seeks entry into NATO, which would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He hopes the membership will allow him to call on the full support of the US and UK to end Putin’s bullying tactics.
Ukraine and Russia have been at odds since Moscow illegally annexed Crimea to Kiev, a move which has been condemned by the international community.
What is going on between Russia and Ukraine?
RUSSIA and Ukraine have technically been at war since 2014.
The conflict was sparked by the Ukrainian revolution – when an uprising toppled the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
Vladimir Putin’s forces annexed the Crimean region to Ukraine in a move that has been widely condemned by the West.
The conflict then escalated when pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine took up arms against the state.
Russia has lent its support to the separatist forces which formed separatist republics in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Putin’s forces then launched a military incursion into these areas as they provided support to the rebels.
Almost seven years have now passed and the war in Donbass remains at an impasse.
Russia is accused of wanting to prevent Ukraine from getting closer to the West – and it has been accused of trying to reclaim territory lost during the fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine is now making overtures to join NATO, a move that would guarantee its own security and ignite tensions.
Some 100,000 troops were deployed by Russia to the border with Ukraine earlier this year, fearing the conflict could escalate into all-out war between the two.
Tensions have since eased – but the region remains a powder keg where one false move could potentially spark a raging conflict that could draw the West in.
He has since reportedly supported rebel groups fighting in eastern Ukraine and has been accused of plotting further land grabs.
Tension rose again this year when Russia massed troops on the border with Ukraine, where some of them remain with their equipment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimates that more than 90,000 Russian troops remain along their borders and said tensions could escalate further.
Kiev has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk since 2014, after Moscow annexed Crimea.
The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Earlier this month, Moscow posted footage of its latest war games in a strong signal to the West ahead of talks between Putin and Joe Biden in Geneva.
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The video came a day before the two leaders met for a private conversation about cyber attacks and their countries’ icy relations.
The clip showed the “Dagger” rocket and air defense missile system launched from a nuclear powered missile cruiser into the Barents Sea.
The exercises in the Arctic were distinct from the largest Russian naval exercises in the Pacific since the end of the Cold War which took place around the same time.