Russia has successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The launch comes just days after NATO formally activated the first stage of a missile defense shield that Moscow vehemently opposes.
The new missile was launched from the Plesetsk launchpad, about 790 kilometres north of Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Interfax news agency said the missile traveled some 6,000 kilometers to hit a target at the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula.
The agency said the missile was likely to be an updated version of Russia's Topol-M. The Topol-M is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching most targets in the northern hemisphere.
A Defense Ministry spokesman told the news agency that the launch had tested new technologies aimed at cutting costs and increasing reliability.
A senior Russian general told Interfax that the missile was part of Moscow's response to the new United States-backed missile shield in Europe, whose first stage was officially declared operational by NATO at its Chicago summit on Sunday.
"This is one of the...measures that Russia's military and political leadership will put into effect in response to a global system of missile defense being developed by the Americans, " former strategic forces director Colonel Generaly Viktor Yesin told the agency.
Kremlin officials fear that the fully operational shield would allow NATO to shoot down Russian missiles and thus directly threaten Moscow's nuclear deterrent.
US officials say the regional joint missile shield is intended solely to protect NATO members from a possible Iranian missile attack.
NATO has said Russia can cooperate on the missile shield, but has turned down Moscow's request to run it jointly.
tj/sej (dpa, AP, AFP)