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Russia to act to counter threat from new US missile: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at the president’s official residence Mantyniemi, in Helsinki, Finland, on August 21, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will take action to counter the threat from a ground-based cruise missile recently tested by the United States.

“I am concerned that the recently tested missile can be fired from launching sites located in Romania and soon [it is] planned to be installed in Poland. It only requires a change in software,” President Putin said during a visit to Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday.

Thus, he said, it poses a “danger” to Russia’s security, and Moscow will take “countermeasures,” including the development of its own ground-launched short- and mid-range missiles.

However, Putin said, Russia will not be the first to deploy such weapons, including close to Europe, unless the US does so first.

He said the testing of the missile so quickly after America scrapped a bilateral arms control treaty with Russia showed that the US had been planning its exit for some time, implying that Washington’s claim that Moscow had first violated the treaty was insincere.

“The Americans tested this missile too quickly — way too quickly after having announced [they] are leaving” the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the Russian president said. “Given that, we have all reasons to believe that development to make it a ground-launched missile — it’s [originally] a maritime-based projectile — started long before [the US started] to look for reasons to leave the deal.”

The US Defense Department announced the testing of the ground-launched missile on Monday.

The missile would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, a bilateral agreement with Russia that the US scrapped earlier this month.

Russia and China have both said that the testing of the missile would trigger an arms race.

The INF had banned all land-based missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and included missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads.

However, the US officially withdrew from the treaty on August 2, claiming that Russia had first breached the pact by developing a missile of its own.

Moscow publicized the specifics of its missile to prove that it was not covered by the INF treaty.

In his Wednesday remarks, Putin also referred to a recent explosion at a nuclear site in Russia, which he said occurred during the testing of promising new weapons systems.

He did not elaborate.

Russia’s state nuclear agency said this month that five of its staff members were killed and three others injured in a blast involving “isotope power sources” that took place during a rocket test on a sea platform on August 8.

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