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Russia test fires ICBMs, flexes military muscles

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Dmitry Medvedev observed the Dvina tactical exercises from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

MOSCOW (BNS): Russia showed off its military capabilities over the past few days by test firing four Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles and staging a massive military exercise witnessed by President Dmitry Medvedev. Observers said such an elaborate show of Russia’s offensive capabilities have not been witnessed since the Cold War days.

The move comes at a time when the US-Russia relations have been plunging to new lows over the American efforts to place its ballistic missile defence shield in Europe. Russia has responded with aggressive military manoeuvres including sending its strategic bombers and missile-mounted ships to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday witnessed a full-range test of the Sineva ballistic missile as part of a military exercise of the Northern Fleet in Barents Sea. Russian news agencies reported that the missile travelled a record 11,547 kilometers.

On Sunday, Medvedev was witness to the test launch of a Topol ICBM from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia. Russia's Strategic Missile Force launched Topol (SS-25 Sickle) at 11.24 am local time.

The same day, two ICBMs were launched from two nuclear submarines deployed in the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, and the Barents Sea, northeast of Norway.

“The exercises test Russia's strategic and regional deterrent and the structures of the Northern Fleet, particularly in relation to the naval strategic nuclear forces,” a report by RIA Novosti said.

On the Sineva launch, RIA Novosti said for the first time the missile that was launched from a submarine, Tula nuclear submarine, was tested to its full range. A naval officer was quoted as saying that “for the first time in Navy history, the launch was not to the Kura test range in Kamchatka [Russian Far East], but to the area of an equatorial part of the Pacific.” The Sineva test firing was part of the Dvina tactical exercises of the Russian Northern Fleet, which are also part of larger-scale Stability-2008 exercises conducted with Belarus that started in September and will run until October 21, the report said.

Reports quoted President Medvedev as saying: “The nuclear shield of Russia is in perfect order.”

“Russia will further strengthen its military component. Of course we will induct newer weapons and force-multipliers into the armed forces,” Medvedev was quoted as saying.

RIA Novosti said Russia's Strategic Missile Forces would conduct at least 11 test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2008 and would double the number of launches after 2009 to prevent the “weakening of Russia's nuclear deterrent”.

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