Putin claims Russia is developing nuclear missiles that are 'immune to interception'

The Russian president said Moscow would regard a nuclear attack on its allies as an attack on Russia itself

Putin claims Russia is developing nuclear missiles that are 'immune to interception'

Picture by: Alexei Nikolsky/AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 18.00

Russia is developing new nuclear weapons that are immune to enemy interception, Vladimir Putin has claimed.

In comments that are likely to ratchet up tensions with the US, the Russian President said this includes a nuclear-powered cruise missile and an underwater drone.

Speaking in a state-of-the-nation speech, Mr Putin warned that Moscow would regard a nuclear attack on its allies as an attack on Russia itself and would respond swiftly.

"We would consider any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies to be a nuclear attack on our country. The response would be immediate," he told the audience of Russian politicians and senior officials.

Mr Putin said the weapons made NATO's US-led missile defence system "useless" and signalled the end to Western efforts to check Russia's nuclear ambitions.

"I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened," Mr Putin said.

"You have failed to contain Russia."

He said the development of the new weapons was in response to the US withdrawing from a Cold War-era treaty that banned missile defences and Washington's moves to develop a missile defence system.

Mr Putin told the audience that the US had ignored Moscow's complaints, adding ominously: "No one has listened to us. You listen to us now."

Mr Putin claimed the high-speed cruise missile, which was tested late last year, has an unlimited range and can penetrate any missile defence.

The high-speed underwater drone can carry a nuclear warhead and target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities, the President also claimed.

He added that the names for the two weapons had not yet been chosen and suggested the country's defence ministry could run a nationwide contest to pick the names.

A new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called Sarmat is also under testing and has a range and number of warheads exceeding the capabilities of its predecessor, Mr Putin added.

Another new weapon mentioned in the speech was Avangard, which Mr Putin described as an intercontinental hypersonic missile that would fly towards targets at 20 times the speed of sound and strike "like a meteorite, like a fireball".

The speech in Moscow was accompanied by videos and computer images of the new weapons, which were shown on large screens in the conference hall.

"No one in the world has anything like that," he said.

"It may appear someday, but by that time we will develop something new."

The speech comes less than three weeks before the Russian presidential election.

Mr Putin is firm favourite to win a second consecutive term - which would be his fourth term overall.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny - who officials have ruled ineligible to run in the election due to a controversial earlier conviction - and other opposition figures were arrested in January during anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow.

Navalny is one the leading critics of Putin, and has called for a boycott of the election amid his criticism of the election process.