Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the “final successful test” of a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as the Burevestnik. This announcement followed the rejection of a New York Times report claiming imminent testing of the weapon by Putin’s spokesman. The Burevestnik, an experimental weapon unveiled in 2018, is believed to possess an unlimited range and is driven by a nuclear reactor, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. However, official information about its capabilities remains scarce, and there have been reports of previous test failures.
Putin’s statement has not been independently verified, and the Russian defense ministry has not commented on the matter. Nevertheless, satellite images from the past month indicated new construction activity on Novaya Zemlya, a remote Arctic island where Soviet nuclear tests occurred.
Addressing a gathering in Sochi, President Putin stated, “We have now virtually finished work on modern types of strategic weaponry about which I have spoken and which I announced a few years ago,” and he confirmed the “final successful test” of the Burevestnik missile. NATO designates this missile as Skyfall.
The Burevestnik missile is believed to rely on a nuclear reactor that activates after solid-fuel rocket boosters launch it into the air. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a arms control organization, all of the 13 previously known tests of the system between 2017 and 2019 were unsuccessful.
Putin also mentioned that work on the intercontinental ballistic missile Sarmat was nearing completion. Despite this revelation, he emphasized that Russia had no plans to change its nuclear doctrine and that there were no threats to the existence of the Russian state. However, he hinted that Russia could withdraw its ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, mirroring the United States, which signed but never ratified the treaty.
In the same meeting, Putin dismissed the idea of “outside interference” in the plane crash that killed Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August. He claimed that fragments of hand grenades were found in the bodies of the crash victims and suggested that alcohol and drug tests should have been conducted on them. An official report on the cause of the crash has not yet been released.