Ukraine: Sky News team come under heavy fire near Kyiv
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Over the last few days, videos have portrayed the devastating situations Ukrainians face as intensifying missile strikes and convoys push towards Kyiv. The country’s armed forces claim to have captured several major cities, but with significant losses, according to Ukrainian and Western military intelligence. Ground forces aren’t the scariest aspect of Russian military capability, however, as Vladimir Putin has a clutch of advanced remote delivery systems and payloads at his disposal.
Russia cultivated the bulk of its arsenal in the 20th century when the country formed the backbone of the Soviet Union.
Rapid militarisation under leaders such as Joseph Stalin saw its nuclear stockpile grow to 45,000 warheads by 1990.
Over the years, Russia has cut down on its arsenal in line with global treaties but still has the world’s largest nuclear stockpile at 5,977 warheads.
At the same time, it has modernised clunkier Soviet equipment, making it both deadlier and cost-effective, according to one expert.
Alexander Lanoszka, an international security expert and assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told Express.co.uk that Russia has overhauled its military technology.
He said: “Russia has embarked on a military modernisation program over the last 10 years that has encompassed its strategic forces.”
Professor Lanoszka touched on the 9M729 Iskander-M, as an example, a “dual-capable” short-range hypersonic ballistic missile system.
The missile can hold several different payloads, including cluster munition warheads, fuel-air explosive warheads, earth penetrator and electromagnetic pulse warheads.
The 9M729 can also carry nuclear warheads, and Russian possession has concerned the west before.
Dr Lanoszka said “western concerns about its testing and deployment” led to the collapse of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
He added: “Russia has also modernised its submarine fleet with new missile systems.”
Complimenting the 9M729, he said, is the Burevestnik nuclear-propelled cruise missile.
Russian manufacturers designed the Burevestnik as a nuclear powered and armed cruise missile.
They can carry thermonuclear warheads and have a nigh unlimited range.
Mr Putin unveiled the devastating new model in March 2018 as part of his plan to “re-balance” Russian nuclear capabilities.
These new capabilities form aspects of a broader modernisation of Russia’s armed forces.
Dr Lanoszka said: “According to Moscow, over four-fifths of its strategic nuclear forces have been modernised so as to be more usable and more functional.
“These weapons still pack a lot of punch and would be absolutely devastating if used.”
The professor said he “would not infer” from recent failings in Ukraine that the Russian nuclear arsenal is “not dangerous”.
But the aggressors may encounter issues as the emphasis moves to replenish “stocks of hardware” as the undertaking could prove “very expensive and harder to do given the looming fiscal catastrophe and no access to western tech”.
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