Putin claims nuclear-powered missile success, says Moscow could exit atomic test ban

President reports successful trial of Burevestnik weapon, notes US has not ratified Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while addressing the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, October 5, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while addressing the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, October 5, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia has successfully tested an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, while also warning that the country’s parliament could revoke its ratification of a treaty banning nuclear tests.

In a speech at a forum of foreign policy experts, Putin announced that Russia has effectively completed the development of the Burevestnik cruise missile and the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and will work on putting them into production.

“We conducted the last successful test of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered global-range cruise missile,” he said without elaborating. His statement was the first announcement of a successful test of the Burevestnik, which translates as “Storm Petrel.” It was first mentioned by Putin in 2018.

Little is known about the Burevestnik, which was code-named Skyfall by NATO, and many Western experts have been skeptical about it, noting that a nuclear engine could be highly unreliable.

It is believed to be able to carry a nuclear warhead or a conventional one, and potentially could stay aloft for a much longer time than other missiles and cover much more distance, thanks to nuclear propulsion.

The US and the Soviet Union worked on nuclear-powered rocket engines during the Cold War, but they eventually shelved the projects, considering them too hazardous.

In this handout photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service, April 20, 2022, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Plesetsk in Russia’s northwest. (Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service via AP, File)

The Burevestnik reportedly suffered an explosion in August 2019 during tests at a Russian navy range on the White Sea, killing five nuclear engineers and two servicemen and resulting in a brief spike in radioactivity that fueled fears in a nearby city.

Russian officials never identified the weapon involved, but the US said it was the Burevestnik.

In the speech, Putin noted the United States has signed but not ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, while Russia has signed and ratified it. He argued that Russia could mirror the stand taken by Washington.

“Theoretically, we may revoke the ratification,” he said.

Moscow last tested a nuclear weapon in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union a year later. It ratified the global test ban in 2000.

Putin’s statement comes amid widespread concerns that Russia could move to resume nuclear tests to try to discourage the West from continuing to offer military support to Ukraine after the Kremlin sent troops into the country. Many Russian hawks have spoken in favor of resuming the tests.

In this grab taken from footage provided by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM press service, a woman holds roses as she and other people gather for the funerals of five Russian nuclear engineers killed by a rocket explosion in Sarov, Russia, August 12, 2019. (Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM via AP)

Putin said that while some experts have talked about the need to conduct nuclear tests, he hasn’t yet formed an opinion on the issue.

“I’m not ready to say yet whether it’s necessary for us to conduct tests or not,” he said.

Western ‘hegemony,’ a ‘new Iron Curtain’ in Europe

Putin said that Russia’s mission was to create a “new world” and blamed Western hegemony for Moscow’s grinding offensive in Ukraine.

Putin has portrayed Russia’s full-scale military intervention in Ukraine — launched in February 2022 — as part of a long-standing confrontation with the West.

“We are tasked, essentially, with building a new world,” Putin said, adding the West was aiming for global “hegemony.”

“The West always needs an enemy,” he said.

As Moscow grows more isolated in the West and faces unprecedented sanctions over its Ukraine campaign, Putin accused the West of trying to create a “new Iron Curtain” with Russia.

“Europe is fencing itself off from us and creating a new Iron Curtain,” said Putin, who served in the Soviet KGB.

“We are not the ones shutting the door. It’s Europe that’s shutting the door,” he added.

In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, January 13, 2023, Russian soldiers prepare a mortar in the direction of Ugledar at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Most Western countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines, making travel out of the country far harder.

Putin said the conflict in Ukraine was “not a territorial” one and that Moscow has “no interests from the point of view of conquering some territories.”

Russia’s army occupies large swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine, and Putin has formally annexed four Ukrainian regions: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Lugansk.

Putin has consistently said that Ukrainian territory was historically Russian, and questioned Ukrainian statehood.

Putin also oversaw the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

The longtime leader, who turns 71 this week, blamed Western countries for the conflict, now in its twentieth month.

“The war, which was started by the Kyiv regime with active support from the West, has been going on already for 10 years,” he said.

“The special military operation was launched to stop it,” he said, using Moscow’s term for the offensive.

Russia’s army failed to take Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in the opening days of its offensive.

Most Popular
read more: