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Putin sends jets with hypersonic missiles to patrol Black Sea

This pool photograph distributed by Russian state owned agency Sputnik shows Russia's President Vladimir Putin meeting with Russian journalists after the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Oct. 18, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
October 19, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’s ordered fighter jets armed with hypersonic missiles to begin round-the-clock patrols over the Black Sea, ratcheting up tensions with the U.S. amid the war in Ukraine and the spiraling crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas.

Putin told reporters in Beijing after talks Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping that he’d ordered MiG-31 aircraft armed with Kinzhal missiles that “have a range of more than 1,000 kilometers at a speed of Mach 9” to conduct permanent missions over neutral waters in the Black Sea.

“This is not a threat, but we will exercise visual control — control with weapons — over what is happening in the Mediterranean Sea,” Putin said. The U.S. has moved two aviation groups into the Mediterranean in response to the Israel-Hamas war, and its recent delivery of ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukraine showed Washington was getting more deeply involved in the conflict there, he said.

“All this is heating up the atmosphere” against the backdrop of the conflict in the Middle East, the Kremlin leader said.

Putin said he and Xi discussed the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East in detail during their talks, adding that Russia and China faced “common threats” that strengthen their relations. Still, while China has provided diplomatic and economic support to Russia since Putin ordered the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, helping to mitigate the effects of international sanctions, it hasn’t supplied weapons to Moscow that would risk provoking U.S. penalties.

U.S. President Joe Biden last month agreed to supply Ukraine with a limited number of ATACMS, or the Army Tactical Missile System. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Tuesday that ATACMS had “proved themselves” after his military carried out strikes on Russian airfields in occupied Luhansk in the east and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov.

Putin said the U.S. made a “mistake” in supplying Ukraine with ATACMS to help Kyiv’s counteroffensive aimed at reclaiming occupied territory seized by Russia in the invasion. The missiles “just prolong the agony” for Ukraine, and Russia will “certainly be able to repel these attacks,” he said.

The blast late Tuesday at a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds should be a signal to stop the conflict between Israel and Hamas as soon as possible, Putin said. Following his phone talks Monday with the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it was clear that nobody wants the conflict to turn into a large-scale war in the region, he said.


© 2023 Bloomberg News

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