President Vladimir Putin used a Navy Day parade to deliver his latest reminder of Russia’s military muscle, touting the nation’s hypersonic nuclear weapons at a ceremony in his hometown of St. Petersburg.
“Today the Russian navy has everything it needs to defend our homeland, our national interests,” Putin said in a speech in front of a monument to the fleet’s founder, Peter the Great. “We can locate any enemy, whether they’re on, under or above the water. And if required, deal them an unavoidable strike.”
More than 50 vessels and 4,000 troops took part in the parade ahead of the navy’s 325th anniversary in October. As well as destroyers, submarines and assault vessels, the Prince Vladimir, a Borei-A class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, was on display for the first time. The event took place without spectators as Russia wrestles with a new spike in Covid-19 cases due to the delta variant.
In his speech, Putin praised Russia’s rapid rise to naval power. From the rudimentary vessels of Peter’s day, the navy now possesses “the latest hypersonic precision weapons systems, that have no equivalent in the world, and which we constantly and successfully improve,” he said.
In June, Putin accused the U.S. and U.K. of staging a “provocation” in the Black Sea that saw Britian’s HMS Defender engaged in a stand-off with Russian ships and fighter jets off the coast of Crimea.
Russia said it used bombs and gunfire in “warning shots” to force the vessel to leave waters the U.K. and its allies don’t recognize as Russian territory after Putin’s 2014 annexation of the strategic peninsula from Ukraine.
Putin stoked fears of a new arms race three years ago when he unveiled new nuclear weapons in his regular state-of-the-nation address. At the start of 2021, the last remaining nuclear-arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia got a five-year extension, when Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to prolong the so-called New START in their first exchange since Biden took office.
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