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Russia says it test-fired a new Sarmat ICBM amid tension over spy poisoning

It comes after the U.S. said it would expel 60 Russian diplomats, while Moscow responded by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.
by Alastair Jamieson /  / Updated 

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LONDON — Russia's Defense Ministry on Friday published a video purporting to show the test-firing of a new intercontinental ballistic missile of the type trumpeted earlier this month by President Vladimir Putin.

The Sarmat missile, which replaces a Soviet-era version, was launched at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northern Archangel province close to the Arctic Circle, the ministry said in a tweet.

In a televised news conference on March 1, Putin announced that Russia has a new array of nuclear-capable weapons including an intercontinental ballistic missile that renders defense systems "useless," supersonic missiles and drone submarines.

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No further information was given in Friday's announcement, but the video's release comes at a period of high tension between Russia and the West over interference in the 2016 presidential election, cyberattacks, hacking, the war in Syria and the alleged nerve-agent attack in Britain on a former spy.

The White House announced Monday that the U.S. would expel 60 Russian diplomats — the largest number since the Cold War — while Moscow on Thursday responded by saying it would expel U.S. diplomats and close the American consulate in St. Petersburg.

Also on Thursday, a hospital treating former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, said the woman was improving rapidly and was now in stable condition, though her father remained in critical condition.

The Skripals were found unconscious and critically ill in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. British authorities blamed Russia for poisoning them with a military-grade nerve agent, accusations Russia has vehemently denied.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S., many EU nations and NATO, have ordered Russian diplomats to leave in a show of solidarity with Britain.

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