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Be cautious about Putin’s nuclear missile claim, says expert

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Be cautious about Putin’s nuclear missile claim, says expert

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President Vladimir Putin’s boast that Russia has a new supersonic missile that can hit virtually anywhere in the world should be treated with caution and scepticism, an expert has told Euronews.

The Russian leader used his annual address to MPs on Thursday to claim the country had developed weapons ‘no other country had’.

He said Russia has a "new supersonic weapon" that cannot be tracked by anti-missile systems and that it had been successfully tested late in 2017.

But Topychkanov, a senior researcher in arms control with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Euronews we should be cautious about the claims.

“I would say we need to be cautious and very accurate about how relevant this statement is and how connected it is to the facts on the ground,” he said.

Earlier this year, the US was said to be developing smaller nuclear weapons in the belief they would be more of a deterrent to Russia than larger ones.

This, and Putin’s missile claim yesterday, have sparked fears we could be on the verge of a fresh arms race between Russia and the US.

But expert Topychkanov has dismissed these suggestions.

“No I don’t think so,” he said. “In general I’m very sceptical about the Russian capabilities and the US’ intention to have an arms race.

“It’s not possible to have the same speed and scale of development of nuclear arsenals - we have joint obligations under the START treaty.

“I believe that specialists in the US clearly understand the Russian capabilities and plans.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders reacted to Putin’s address by alleging Russia had been developing destabilising weapons systems for more than a decade.

The Kremlin “categorically denied” it was in breach of any international arms control pacts.

Topychkanov said Putin’s missile claim could have been playing to a domestic audience ahead of presidential elections later in March.

This year is the first time Putin’s annual speech has been delivered in March, according to the Moscow Times. It is usually given in December.

He said: “I have no doubt that he uses this military agenda to consolidate political support and in general I have no doubt it will help him to be re-elected. It might not be the most significant factor but it will help him.”