Secret Russian radioactive doomsday torpedo leaked on television
TWO Kremlin-controlled TV stations accidentally aired details of a top-secret nuclear torpedo in development by Russia - but experts say it could be a thinly veiled warning by Vladimir Putin to the West.
Russia's ties with the US and the rest of Europe are at the lowest point since the Cold War.
NTV and Channel One showed a large document - filmed over a general's shoulder during a meeting with Putin - with drawings and details of a prospective weapons system called Status-6.
The system, developed by the St Petersburg-based Rubin design bureau, includes nuclear submarines carrying long-range torpedoes, which could create "extensive zones of radioactive contamination" that would make enemy coastal areas "unsuitable for military, economic, business or other activity for a long time," the document said.
The channels later removed the footage, which was shot during a meeting on Monday.
"It's true that some secret information was caught by the camera and therefore it was subsequently removed," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding: "We hope this will not happen again."
Independent experts noted that it would be hard to imagine cameramen of state TV stations focusing on documents on the table during a Kremlin meeting on military issues.
Most saw the incident as a deliberate leak, intended to warn Washington and its allies that Russia is working on a devastating new weapon.
"I have a feeling it was shown in order to scare the world," said Alexander Golts, an independent Moscow-based military analyst. "It's an attempt to offer an asymmetrical answer to the US missile defence."
Putin has held four meetings on defence issues in as many days this week, reflecting the close attention he is paying to military modernisation at a time of heightened tensions with the United States and Europe over the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian leader described NATO's US-led missile defence programme as an attempt to break nuclear parity and warned that Moscow would counter it by deploying new strike weapons capable of piercing the shield.
The Status-6 appears to be a new reincarnation of the old idea, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst.
"The plan is to deliver a 100-megaton nuclear bomb to the US shores," he said, adding: "It would cause a highly radioactive tsunami."