Russia marks Putin's 68th birthday with 'successful' test launch of hypersonic Zircon missile


Russian activist group Pussy Riot draped gay pride rainbow flags on Moscow government buildings to mark Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday on Wednesday.

Their stunt came as the Russian military staged its own birthday present for Putin with a ‘successful’ test launch of his new-age 6,000 mph hypersonic Zircon missile.

In a lengthy Facebook message accompanying pictures of the flags hanging from government buildings, Pussy Riot wrote: ‘On Putin’s birthday, Pussy Riot hung rainbow flags on the most important symbols of Russian statehood.

In an alternative celebration of Putin's 68th birthday, Russian activist group Pussy Riot unfurled rainbow flags on key Moscow government buildings to highlight LGBTQ issues

In an alternative celebration of Putin’s 68th birthday, Russian activist group Pussy Riot unfurled rainbow flags on key Moscow government buildings to highlight LGBTQ issues

‘The FSB on Lubyanka [square], the Presidential Administration, the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Culture and the Bassmanny district,’ the group wrote, were all targets of their alternative birthday celebration. 

They said that with their stunt came the demand to legalise ‘same-sex partnerships’ and for investigations to be undertaken ‘into murders and kidnapping of gay, lesbians, transgender and queer people in Chechnya.’

‘Today we give this rainbow as a symbol of missing love and freedom,’ they said.

Putin has often been the target of criticism from LGBTQ and human rights activists, with such criticism getting louder in July 2020 when Russian voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Putin has said he is not prejudiced against gay people, but that he finds a Western willingness to embrace homosexuality and gender fluidity out of step with traditional Russian values.

Meanwhile, the Russian military celebrated Putin’s birthday by testing The Zircon – or Tsirkon – missile.

The group said they attached flags to the FSB building on Lubyanka square, the Presidential Administration, the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Culture and the Bassmanny district

The group said they attached flags to the FSB building on Lubyanka square, the Presidential Administration, the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Culture and the Bassmanny district

Putin has often been the target of criticism from LGBTQ and human rights activists

Russian voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in July

Putin has often been the target of criticism from LGBTQ and human rights activists, particularly after Russian voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in July

The missile has been identified by Moscow’s state-controlled TV as Putin’s weapon of choice to wipe out American cities in the event of nuclear war.

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Putin called the launch ‘a great event not only in the life of the Armed Forces, but also in the whole of Russia‘.

The deadly missile is ‘the newest, truly unparalleled weapon system in the world’ ensuring ‘the defence capability of our state’.

The Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov during a test in the White Sea on Wednesday

The Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov during a test in the White Sea on Wednesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff Valery Gerasimov, via a video conference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on his 68th birthday, October 7

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff Valery Gerasimov, via a video conference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on his 68th birthday, October 7

The missile was launched from the White Sea and successfully hit a target in the Barents Sea, claimed Russia’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

He told birthday boy Putin the launch was from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate.

‘The task was completed successfully, a direct hit was registered,’ he said.

‘The range of the flight reached 450 kilometres [280 miles], maximum altitude 28 kilometres [17 miles], the duration of the flight was 4.5 minutes.

‘The missile developed the speed of over Mach 8.’

A radiation leak during a military accident which killed two and wounded six last year was seen as involving a testing on the missile.

Radiation levels temporarily soared 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, a city lying some 18 miles from the weapons testing site at Nyonoksa / Nenoksa, according to Greenpeace citing the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

A clearly thrilled Putin today hailed the test and those who had worked on Zircon.

‘This work – we know about it – is a huge work of our scientists, engineers, talented workers, military specialists.

‘This is a big stage in equipping the Armed Forces with the latest systems.

The Zircon missile blasts out of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the White Sea today

The Zircon missile blasts out of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the White Sea today

The missile starts its rapid journey to a target 280 miles away - which the Russian defence ministry said it hit successfully

The missile starts its rapid journey to a target 280 miles away – which the Russian defence ministry said it hit successfully

A flash of heat is seen on the deck of the Russian frigate as the missile lifts off

A flash of heat is seen on the deck of the Russian frigate as the missile lifts off

The missile is fired out of a hatch in the upper deck of the Russian frigate

The missile is fired out of a hatch in the upper deck of the Russian frigate

‘I would like to congratulate everyone who is involved in the work on Zircon.

‘I want to thank the Minister of Defence (Sergei Shoigu) and you.

‘I know that all of you act not only as customers, but also as full-fledged participants in the process of creating such modern systems.

‘I would like to thank all of you for the work done, for its results and express my hope that in the future all the specialists involved in the rearmament of the Russian army will work as efficiently and as persistently as they have done so far.

‘Once again, I congratulate you on this event and wish you continued success.’

Hypersonic cruise missile Zircon is designed to be used against ships or land-based targets, and to enter production in 2021, commencing service the following year.

Dmitry Kiselyov, presenter of Russia’s main weekly TV news show Vesti Nedeli, last year showed on screen a map of the US identifying targets he claimed Moscow would want to hit in a nuclear war.

Kiselyov, seen as a top Putin propagandist, said the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.

Putin warned this year that the West is seeking to steal secrets relating to Zircon and other state-of-the-art Russian weapons such as the Avangard.

He told his FSB counterintelligence service: ‘That means that your work should become even more effective.’   

Last year radiation levels soared in settlements around the testing site at Nyonoksa (pictured) on the White Sea

Last year radiation levels soared in settlements around the testing site at Nyonoksa (pictured) on the White Sea

The defence ministry said that the plan was to equip both warships and submarines with the Tsirkon.

Putin had revealed the development of the new weapon in a state of the nation address in February 2019, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 620 miles and a speed of Mach 9.

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Russia boasts of developing a number of ‘invincible’ weapons that surpass existing systems and include Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.

The first Avangard hypersonic missiles were put into service in December last year.

The programme is not without risks and seven people were killed in an explosion at a missile test site in August 2019. Western experts linked the blast to work on the Burevestnik. 

Why the US abandoned nuclear cruise missiles as too dangerous

In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Air Force conceived of a nuclear-powered missile dubbed the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile or SLAM.

Powered by an un-shielded nuclear reactor superheating the air in a supersonic ramjet, the missiles would be able to cruise indefinitely around the Earth just a few miles over the ground.

The missiles were intended to deliver nuclear weapon payloads, but would also cause devastating damage via shock waves and radiation. 

In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Air Force conceived of a nuclear-powered missile

In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Air Force conceived of a nuclear-powered missile

After launch, the missiles could in theory fly in circles over the ocean indefinitely until called ‘down to the deck.’

Skimming just above the ground, the missiles would be impervious to traditional missile defense and difficult to spot on radar. 

After delivering their nuclear warhead payloads, the missiles could continue to cause tremendous damage and loss of life simply by cruising in circles over populated areas spewing radiation and flattening buildings with shock waves.

The missiles could also be crashed into a population center to inflict maximum radiation damage from the un-shielded nuclear core.

The Tory II-A nuclear ramjet prototype was developed by Project Pluto in the early 60s

The Tory II-A nuclear ramjet prototype was developed by Project Pluto in the early 60s

The U.S. conducted ground tests of a nuclear-powered ramjet engine under Project Pluto, but the project was officially scuttled in 1964 as being too fearsome and provocative.

War planners feared that if the U.S. developed the horrifying and unstoppable missiles, the USSR would be forced to do the same. 



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