Russia test-fires ICBM as West raises pressure over Ukraine
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions high over its seizure of control in the Crimea and its threat to send more forces to its neighbor Ukraine.
The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told state-run news agency RIA.
The launch site, Kapustin Yar, is near the Volga River about 450 km (280 miles) east of the Ukrainian border. Kazakhstan, a Russian ally in a post-Soviet security grouping, is further to the east.
Russia and the United States signed the latest of a series of treaties restricting the numbers of ICBMs in 2010, but Moscow has indicated it will agree further cuts in the near future and is taking steps to upgrade its nuclear arsenal.
President Vladimir Putin has emphasized that Russia must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent, in part because of an anti-missile shield the United States is building in Europe which Moscow says could undermine its security.
The 20 meter (60 foot) long RS-12M, known in NATO parlance as the SS-25 Sickle, was first put in service in 1985, six years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and is designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Its range is 10,500 km (6,000 miles).
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alistair Lyon)