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Putin announces deployment of more advanced nuclear weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, meets with the top military brass to discuss new weapons at the residence in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia on Friday, May 18, 2018. (Photo by AP)

President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s new nuclear weapons will be delivered to the country’s military within the next two years.

Putin told the top brass of the Russian military in Sochi Friday that the delivery of the new Avangard hypersonic vehicle will start next year, with the new Sarmat inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) entering duty in 2020.

The Russian president further insisted that the new nuclear weapons far surpass any foreign designs, saying: "These unique weapons systems are years and, perhaps, even decades ahead of any foreign analogues."

Russia's RS-28 Sarmat ICBM (File photo)

"They have rendered many expensive, I would say highly expensive foreign systems, useless and outdated," he was quoted as saying.

The Avangard and the Sarmat, the report added, were among an array of new Russian nuclear armaments introduced by Putin back in March. The Avangard has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound, it said. 

The Russian president further said the ICBM can change both its course and its altitude en route to a target, making it "absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense means."

Putin underlined that two other new systems unveiled in March — the Kinzhal hypersonic missile and the laser weapon called Peresvet — have already been deployed with the units of Russia's Southern Military District, which are developing tactics for their use.

The Mig-31 fighter jets carrying the huge Kinzhal missiles flew over Red Square during the Victory Day parade earlier this month.

A MiG-31 takes off with Kinzhal missile attached. (File photo from Russia's Ministry of Defense)

According to the report, the Sarmat will replace the Soviet-designed Voyevoda -- the world's heaviest ICBM, known as "Satan" in the West, which carries 10 nuclear warheads.

Russia said in March that Sarmat weighs 200 metric tons (220 tons) and has a higher range than Satan, allowing it to fly over the North or the South Poles and strike targets anywhere across the globe.

The Russian president also pointed to a nuclear-powered global range cruise missile and an underwater drone designed to strike coastal facilities with a heavy nuclear weapon. However, Russian officials have not yet disclosed their deployment prospects.

Russia has begun serial production of Avangard hypersonic missile. (File photo)

Russia has launched a sweeping arms modernization program in the face of growing tensions with the US-led NATO military alliance of mostly European nations, and amid the Western-sponsored conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

Russian cabinet reshuffle wins Putin’s approval

On Friday, Putin signed decrees appointing members of the country's newly-formed government.

His previous cabinet resigned after Putin was sworn into office on May 7 for his fourth term as the Russian president. Dmitry Medvedev, however, retained his position as prime minister following parliamentary approval.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and acting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow on May 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Medvedev had recommended candidates for the cabinet posts earlier in the day, winning Putin’s approval for proposed nominees. The Russian prime minister will now have 10 deputies instead of the previous nine.

According to the report, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was also promoted to the position of first deputy prime minister while retaining his ministerial post.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were also retained in the new cabinet.

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