Russia test fires ballistic missile

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MOSCOW, Oct 18 (Reuters) Russia launched an inter-continental ballistic missile today from its Plesetsk cosmodrome in the north of the country, a Russian military spokesman said.

The RS-12M Topol', called the SS-25 Sickle by NATO and configured for a mobile platform, was successfully launched at 9:10 am local time Moscow time.

The spokesman said the training exercise included hitting a target at the Kura test range on the Kamchatka peninsula on Russia's Pacific coast.

The test was part of a reliability evaluation of flight stabilisers the Topol' uses over long distances, and part of a planned extension of the missile's life-span to 23 years.

As configured in 1985, the ICBM has a maximum range of 10,000 km and can carry one 550-kiloton nuclear warhead.

The missiles are produced at the Votkinsk Missile Building Plant near Izhevsk, 1,000 km east of Moscow, where a small group of US inspectors has monitored factory production since 1988 as part of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that unless a treaty on short and medium range missiles was expanded to include other countries, remaining in such a treaty would be difficult for Russia. He did not specify the INF treaty.

Putin suspended Russia's obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty in April, in a move he linked to US plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.

An audience of officers and soldiers from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome is set later on Thursday to take part in Putin's sixth Internet and telephone Q&A session with the public.

REUTERS AE AS1307

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