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Russia tests ICBM designed to overcome missile shield

Russia has been upgrading its Topol missiles in response to US plans to develop a missile-defence shield using ground-based interceptors, analysts said.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 28, 2008
Russia on Thursday said it test-fired an intercontinental missile designed to avoid detection by missile-defence systems, raising the temperature in a tense stand-off with the West over Georgia.

The Topol RS-12M intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia and flew 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) to hit a target on Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east, a military spokesman said.

The test was meant "to develop equipment for potential combat use against ground-based ballistic missiles," Alexander Vovk, a spokesman for Russia's strategic nuclear forces, said in televised remarks.

The test came barely a week after the United States completed an accord with Poland on basing anti-missile interceptors in the east European country and as Russia accuses NATO of building up its naval presence in the Black Sea.

But analysts said the launch was likely planned in advance and not directly linked to soaring tensions with the West over Russia's conflict with ex-Soviet Georgia.

The stand-off has deepened since President Dmitry Medvedev's announcement that Russia was recognising South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

Russia has been upgrading its Topol missiles in response to US plans to develop a missile-defence shield using ground-based interceptors, analysts said.

"Russia is saying once again that has the opportunity to overcome US missile defence," Anatoly Tsyganok, a retired colonel and head of the Centre for Military Forecasting, told AFP.

But he ruled out any possibility that the test was timed to coincide with tensions over Georgia. Independent defence analyst Pavel Felgenauer said it was improbable: "Such tests are planned in advance... Maybe, but it's unlikely."

The Topol was first tested in 1983 but Russia has in recent years been adapting it to include countermeasures against missile defence, with the last test-firing in December 2007.

"Experience shows the most economical and quickly achievable countermeasures against the development of a missile-defence system are so-called asymmetrical measures," nuclear forces spokesman Vovk said, quoted by Interfax news agency.

Those measures include the missile being less detectable and its path less predictable, he said.

"Most likely this is an old Topol, maybe slightly modernised," analyst Felgenauer said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday promised a "military response" to the US-Polish agreement on interceptors.

"These missiles are to be stationed alongside our border and they are a threat to us... We have to respond somehow to this situation, and naturally enough we have to take a military response," he told Al-Jazeera television.

Washington's plan to site elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has angered Moscow despite US assurances that the plan does not threaten Russia and is meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran.

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Russia test fires strategic missile: navy
Moscow (AFP) Aug 1, 2008
Russia on Friday successfully test fired a strategic missile from a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, hitting a target on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, a navy official told AFP.

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