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Russia Launches New ICB Missile as Grozny Invaded

As the Russian military begins its invasion of Grozny, Russia has launched a strategic intercontinental Topol-M missile using the occasion to warn the West against criticising its Chechen campaign. John Howard reports.

Russia launched a new strategic missile Tuesday from Plesetsk hitting its target on the Kamchatka peninsular, some 5,000 kilometres across Russia.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who witnessed the test said, "Russia will use all diplomatic and military-political levers in its disposal," to confront Western opposition.

Putin's comments came in a speech to military officers at the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia.

"The diplomatic levers are clear, and as for the military ones, the successful launch of the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile is one of them," Putin said.

Putin's warning followed last week's tough statement from President Boris Yeltsin, who reminded President Clinton that "Russia is a great power that possesses a nuclear arsenal." Yeltsin was reacting to US criticism of the Chechnya campaign.

Putin at the time sought to moderate Yeltsin's statement, saying that Russia and the US have good relations, but his statement now sounds as harsh as Yeltsin's.

"No one can accuse the government of inappropriate use of anti-terrorist measures in Chechnya, call Russia and aggressor or an occupier," Putin said.

"Some nations and blocs under the cover of international organisations are interfering into affairs of independent states, and trying to speak to them in the language of force," Putin said. "We are not used to such language since Russia has a nuclear shield."

Putin also warned the US against trying to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Moscow warns that attempts to amend the treaty could trigger a new arms race. The Russian military has already said that fitting multiple warheads to the Topol-M missiles would be part of Moscow's response if the US walks out of the treaty.

Most of Russia's other long-range missiles are either past their service life or will have been dismantled if the country ratifies the START-II nuclear disarmament treaty.

Unlike Russia's older missiles, the Topol-M is a relatively small mobile missile designed to be fired from trucks or other vehicles making it difficult for potential enemies to locate and track.

ends

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