World

During ceremony to honor victims of explosion, Putin vows to perfect weapons system

AFP-JIJI, AP

President Vladimir Putin said Russia would perfect an advanced weapon system following an explosion at a testing site that killed seven people.

At a Kremlin ceremony where Putin bestowed state awards on the widows of the scientists killed in the accident, Putin also said their husbands did not die in vain.

“The very fact of possessing such unique technologies is the most important and reliable guarantee of peace on the planet,” Putin said in comments broadcast on state television on Friday. “And despite everything, we will certainly perfect this weapon.”

Seven people, including five employees of state nuclear agency Rosatom, were killed in an explosion at a missile test site in the far-northern Arkhangelsk region in August.

A brief rise in local radiation levels sparked panic in northern Russia as well as fresh Western concerns over Russia’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

Western experts have linked the blast at the Nyonoksa test site to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which was first revealed by Putin in 2018 and has the NATO code name “Skyfall.”

The Russian authorities have not confirmed that the accident was linked to the Burevestnik project, and the identity of the missile that exploded remains uncertain.

Putin first revealed the existence of the missile in his 2018 state-of-the-nation address, claiming that it will have an unlimited range and would be able to circle the globe undetected by missile defense systems. He claimed then that the missile had successfully undergone the first tests, but many observers have remained skeptical, arguing that such a weapon could be very difficult to handle and pose a threat to the environment.

Putin stressed Friday that the weapon the Russian scientists had worked on has no foreign equivalent.

“We are talking about the most advanced technical ideas and solutions, about a weapon which is without equal in the world,” Putin said at the ceremony late Thursday, “about the weapon that is designed to secure Russia’s sovereignty and security for decades to come.”

Handing the Order of Courage to the black-clad widows, Putin said Russia would always be proud of their husbands and support their families.

“They were in charge of very complicated, serious and critically important work,” he added, calling them top-notch professionals.

“They had a special mission,” he said.

“One day we will all pass. The question is, how did we live? Your loved ones lived an honorable life.”