Putin Boasts About Russia's Missiles

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures speaking at an annual wide-ranging news conference in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006. Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's place in the Group of Eight leading industrial nations and lashed out at critics who allege Moscow is unfit to chair the organization this year. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has new missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system and said he had briefed French President Jacques Chirac on their capabilities.

"Russia has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," Putin said. "These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but it doesn't matter to them whether that exists or not. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path."

Putin said the new missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He wouldn't say whether the Russian military already had commissioned any such missiles.

Also at Putin's annual news conference:

  • He denied rumors that he will take up the reins of the world's biggest gas producer, the state-controlled monopoly Gazprom, upon leaving the Kremlin. Putin is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in presidential elections in 2008 and speculation has been rife about his possible successor and what he will do when he leaves office.
  • Putin said his government had no plans to monopolize the oil and gas sector but supported the creation of strong state-controlled firms, with foreign strategic investors and shareholders. "The weather in the world energy sector is made by big international companies ... large, powerful, as a rule multinational companies," he said. "We, too, must develop in this direction."
  • Putin said he knew nothing of plans by Russia's diamond mining monopoly Alrosa to buy out Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest producer of nickel and palladium, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. Alrosa is the world's second-biggest diamond miner after South Africa's De Beers.
  • Putin made a pitch for Russian international uranium enrichment centers to help ease international concerns over proliferation, especially in Iran. The European Union and United States have backed Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran as a possible way out of the impasse. Iran's top nuclear negotiator visited Moscow last week to discuss the proposal and said it needs more work.

    The Russian president said he had shown the working principles of the missile system to Chirac during a visit to a Russian military facility. "He knows what I'm talking about," Putin said.

    In April 2004, Chirac became the first Western leader to visit Russia's top-secret Titov space control center of the Russian military space forces — the control point for all of Russia's satellites, which is also involved in launches of Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles.