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Russia tests long-range missile amid tension

Test of intercontinental ballistic missile was conducted as Russia and the West face off over turmoil in Ukraine.

Last updated: 04 Mar 2014 20:56
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A US official said that Russia had notified Washington of the missile test in advance [AFP]

Russia has carried out a test-launch of an "advanced" intercontinental ballistic missile, amid tension over its seizure of the Crimea and its threat to send more forces to its neighbour Ukraine.

The Russian military launched on Tuesday the RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region near the Caspian Sea, and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, according to the the state news agency RIA.

"The purpose of the launch is to test the advanced payload of the intercontinental ballistic missile," Russia's three main news agencies quoted a top defence official as saying.

The defence official said the Topol, a road-mobile missile, was last tested by Russia on December 28.

The missile was first put into service in the 1980s and then repeatedly modified. It is referred to as the SS-25 Sickle by NATO and has a reported maximum range of 10,000km.

The defence official provided no details of the missile's advanced features, saying only that it was launched from Russia's Kapustin Yar rocket launch site near the southern city of Volgograd, according to the Agence France Presse news agency.

Russia has been testing warheads that could evade a missile defence shield the United States is deploying together with NATO in Europe over Russia's strong objections.

The Russian defence official said the test was designed to check the warhead's ability to "penetrate missile defence systems".

The test was conducted amid a fierce standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine, whose Crimean peninsula has been taken under de facto control by Kremlin-backed troops since the February 22 ouster of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

A US official said that Russia had notified Washington of the missile test in advance.

"We have been notified of this test earlier this week. It's not unexpected," the US defence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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