UK 'could face threat of Russian nuclear-powered missile that can fly around the Earth for years'

Monday 14th September 2020 08:45 BST

Lieutenant General Jim Hockenhull says the West is having to keep up with countries that do not play by the rules, such as Russia and China, who continually challenge nations without prompting direct conflict.

"Whilst conventional threats remain, we have seen our adversaries invest in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other ground-breaking technologies, whilst also supercharging more traditional techniques of influence and leverage," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

Lt Gen Hockenhull said Russia is "pushing the boundaries of science and international treaties", and that a nuclear-powered missile could have "a near-indefinite loiter time".

He added: "Moscow is testing a subsonic nuclear-powered cruise missile system which has global reach and would allow attack from unexpected directions.

"As we have seen in Salisbury, hostile states are willing to take incredible risks.

"We must make sure that we have both the intent and the capability to ensure that such wanton acts of irresponsibility will not go unpunished."

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Britain has long accused Russia of using the Soviet-era nerve agent novichok on former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

The 69-year-old and his daughter Yulia were two of five people exposed to the substance.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, died in July that year after coming into contact with a perfume bottle thought to originally contain the poison - while her partner, Charlie Rowley, spent nearly three weeks in hospital.

Last month, German doctors said Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was "without a doubt" poisoned with novichok after falling ill on an internal flight in Russia.

The 44-year-old is reportedly able to speak again as he continues to make progress in his recovery.

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