Putin cautiously rules out using nuclear weapons against Islamic State
President Vladimir Putin has expressed his hope that nuclear weapons will “not be needed” to end the threat of Islamic State.
The Russian leader made the surprising remark during a meeting at the Kremlin where he discussed recent cruise missiles strikes into Syria from a Russian submarine.
“The Kalibrs (sea based cruise missiles) and KH-101 (airborne cruise missile) have proved to be modern and highly effective, and now we know it for sure - precision weapons that can be equipped with both conventional and special warheads, which are nuclear,” Mr Putin said.
“We must analyse everything happening on the battlefield, how the weapons operate… [but] naturally, this is not necessary when fighting terrorists and, I hope, will never be needed.”
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According to Russia Today, Mr Putin made the comments during a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who was reporting on the latest results of the anti-ISIS airstrike by Russian and French forces.
On Tuesday, a Russian Kilo-class submarine, the Rostov-on-Don, fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean against an ISIS installation near their stronghold in Raqqa.
This is the first time that Kalibr and KH-101 cruise missiles have been deployed by Russia during its strikes against targets in Syria.
In addition to conventional warheads, the water-to-surface missiles are capable of being equipped with a nuclear payload.
“We warned our Israeli and American colleagues about these launches,” said Mr Shoigu.
“We’ve been registering the missiles launches, flights and, of course, their hitting the targets.”
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A Russian cruiser currently deployed off the coast of India is set to be sail for the Mediterranean to increase Moscow’s presence along the Syrian coast, the defence minister added.
Most of the world's powers are now flying combat missions over Iraq and Syria against Islamic State.
But consensus on how to proceed has been thwarted by opposing policies over the four-year-old civil war in Syria, which has killed 250,000 people, driven 11 million from their homes.