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. Russia to deploy new missile systems by 2020: military
MOSCOW, Dec 17 (AFP) Dec 17, 2008
Russia's armed forces will be equipped with new nuclear-capable missiles by 2020 that can overcome defensive measures like the controversial US missile shield, a top military official said on Wednesday.

The comments by the overall commander of Russia's missile forces indicate Russia is planning a far-reaching refurbishment of its intercontinental missile arsenal where Soviet-era warhorses still play an important role.

"By 2015-2020 the Russian strategic rocket forces will have new complete missile systems with improved combat characteristics," General Nikolai Solovtsov told reporters at a briefing in the Moscow region.

"They will be capable of carrying out any tasks, including in conditions where an enemy uses anti-missile defence measures," Solovtsov said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

Russian officials have expressed fury at the US plan to install missile defence facilities in Central Europe, despite US assurances that the system is not directed against Russia.

Washington plans to put an anti-missile radar facility in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, both ex-Eastern bloc countries which are now NATO members.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have urged US president-elect Barack Obama to drop the system, which was devised by the outgoing administration of George W. Bush.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday he expected the Obama administration to "constructively cooperate with us" on arms control issues, the Interfax news agency reported.

However despite the expressions of optimism from Moscow, Obama has yet to give any details about his intentions.

Solovtsov said the Russian rocket forces are "developing and putting new missile systems on combat duty and perfecting their capabilities in line with the threats that are currently apparent."

Russia is working to upgrade its Soviet-era forces and has repeatedly tested new missiles in recent months amid the controversy over the missile shield.

It is introducing new missiles into its existing arsenal like the Stiletto, the Voevoda and the Topol.

The refurbishment of the missile forces comes alongside a wider shake-up of the armed forces, which is expected to see a massive reorganisation of structures and personnel cuts to make the military more dynamic.

The military has already started mass production of the Topol-M, a three-stage ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) which can be deployed on both stationary and mobile launch platforms.

Generals have said that from December 2009 Russia will deploy its new RS-24 , which is similar to the Topol-M but carries a multiple warhead.

It also in November successfully tested the Bulava, the sea-based equivalent of the Topol-M which is also capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, reaching a target 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) away.

Solovtsov denied that the RS-24 violates the START 1 missile control treaty, which he says only bans adding additional warheads to existing missiles or expanding the the number of warheads on multiple-warhead weapons.

"This does not concern the RS-24. It is a completely new missile," he said.

He said Russia was planning 13 rocket launches in 2009, including five test firings and three launches aimed at extending the service life of older weapons.

The other launches will be of Dnepr rockets used to carry satellites into space.

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