Technical faults prevented two Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles from being fired Tuesday during training exercises in the Barents Sea observed by President Vladimir Putin, news agencies reported.
The missiles’ launch was blocked by satellite following an unspecified fault during massive war games stages by Russia’s Northern Fleet and oter branches of the military, the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies quoted military sources as saying.
Meanwhile the Gazeta.ru Internet news site reported that a test intercontinental ballistic missile misfired during a launch from a nuclear submarine as the Russian president watched on from the deck of another submarine.
It was not immediately clear if the conflicting, unconfirmed reports were referring to the same incident.
The Gazeta.ru report said the ICBM exploded shortly after takeoff. It did not mention any casualties and the navy press office refused to confirm the report.
The Russian navy’s press office refused to comment on the reports.
If confirmed, the mishap threatens to embarrass Putin less than a month before the March 14 presidential election, which he is overwhelmingly expected to win.
In another public relations move aimed at boosting his tough-guy image, Putin set sail Tuesday in the Arctic seas on board a nuclear submarine after spending the night with the craft’s crew.
He went off into the Barents Sea — where the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in August 2000 and killed 118 seamen just months into Putin’s first term as president — Monday evening to oversee what have been advertised as some of the largest war games staged by Russia in recent years.
News reports said they included six submarines carrying nuclear weapons. Tu-95 strategic bombers were due to test fire cruise missiles Tuesday over the Kola Peninsula on the northwestern edge of Russia near the Finnish border.
ITAR-TASS reported that the games — which were expected to last several weeks — would involve some 5,000 servicemen.