Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons

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Russia has developed a new array of nuclear weapons that are invincible, according to President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin made the claims as he laid out his key policies for a fourth presidential term, ahead of an election he is expected to win in 17 days’ time.

The weapons he boasted of included a cruise missile that he said could “reach anywhere in the world”.

He said of the West: “They need to take account of a new reality and understand … [this]… is not a bluff.”

Giving his annual state of the nation speech, Mr Putin used video presentations to showcase the development of two new nuclear delivery systems that he said could evade detection.

One included a “low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile… with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of all existing and future systems of both missile defence and air defence”.

Another weapon he discussed was a submarine-launched, long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

During the two-hour televised speech to a joint sitting of both houses of parliament, he encouraged Russians to suggest names for the two systems. He argued that Russia had reacted after years of pleading with the US not to break away from anti-missile treaties.

Opposition leader barred from vote

Mr Putin faces seven challengers on 18 March, although none is expected to attract widespread support. The president played no part in a raucous televised debate broadcast on Wednesday that featured the other candidates.

Absent from the campaign is prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been barred from running and has called on voters to boycott the poll.

President Putin has so far done little campaigning, and until now said little about his plans for the next six years.

Wowing his audience

By Steven Rosenberg, BBC News, Moscow

Before today, Vladimir Putin had delivered 13 state of the nation addresses. Address Number 14 turned out to be very different from anything that had come before.

Standing in front of a giant video screen, President Putin showcased Russia’s very latest strategic weapons. Like a magician pulling one rabbit after another out of his hat, he wowed his audience with images of cruise missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, underwater drones and supersonic jets.

Russian MPs and senators applauded the military video show, which dominated the second half of President Putin’s speech.

There was a double message here. Firstly, to the West: Don’t push us. And, with elections coming up, there was this for the Russian people: Vote for Putin and you’ll be voting for national security.

I suspect the concluding image was designed to reinforce just that: As Vladimir Putin stood to the national anthem, a giant Russian flag appeared on the video screen behind him. It is a message that is likely to strike a chord with many here.

Fighting poverty

While weaponry dominated the second half of Mr Putin’s speech, he tailored the first half towards working Russians and their concerns.

He pledged to halve poverty in the country within the next six years and said he wanted life-expectancy rates to emulate Japan and France.

“Every person matters to us,” he said, adding that he also wanted to increase employment and longevity.

In 2000 there were 42 million people in Russia living below the poverty line, he noted; today there were 20 million, but this still needed to come down.

He warned Russians not to take the country’s power for granted.

“We have no right to allow the stability we have achieved to lead to complacency. Especially since we are far from resolving many problems,” he said.

“Russia is now a leading country with a powerful foreign economic and defence potential. But from the point of view of the extremely important task of ensuring people’s quality of life and welfare we, of course, have not achieved the level we require. But we have to do this and will do this,” he added to applause.

Mr Putin also pledged to spend more on roads and reduce accidents; said teachers deserved good salaries and wages; and said there should be better access to both the internet and medical services for people in remote areas.

 

 

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