After a Russian missile attack across Ukraine in October, Ukrainian intelligence officials found the wreckage of a Soviet-era nuclear-capable Kh-55 missile that, as it turned out later, was manufactured in a Ukrainian weapons factory, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief Gen. Vadym Skibitskyi said, The New York Times reported. He said that the warhead had been removed and ballast added to disguise the fact that it was not carrying a payload, an assertion now backed by the Pentagon and British military intelligence.
The Kh-55 is a Soviet-era subsonic air-launched cruise missile designed in the 1970s to carry a nuclear warhead in a range of up to 2,500 km. This missile is launched exclusively from bomber aircraft.
The missile, and the bomber that most likely delivered it, was part of a cache of weaponry handed over to Russia by Ukraine in the 1990s as part of the Budapest Memorandum, an international agreement aimed at assuring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Gen. Skibitskyi told NYT.
In November, Ukrainian troops found the remnants of two more Kh-55 missiles with their warheads removed, and both part of the same tranche of weapons that Ukraine had sent to Russia under the agreement. Russia uses them as false targets in order to later launch the more modern missiles with destructive warheads against the Ukrainian air defenses that would engage the Kh-55s, Skibitskyi said.
As part of the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to relinquish its world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal inherited from the collapsed USSR and transfer all nuclear warheads to Russia for decommissioning in return for security assurances:
“All ballistic missiles, Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers were also handed over,” said General Skibitsky. “Now, they are using Kh-55 missiles against us with these bombers. It would be better if we handed them over to the USA.”
Skibitskyi says that Russia has missiles for 3-5 more waves of massive missile attacks:
“According to our calculations, they have missiles for another three to five waves of attacks,” he said. “This is if there are 80 to 90 rockets in one wave.”
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