MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has deployed hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles three times over the course of what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sunday.

The Kinzhal missiles are part of an array of new hypersonic weapons President Vladimir Putin presented in 2018 in a bellicose speech in which he said they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a U.S.-built missile shield.

Shoigu, speaking on state television, said the missiles had proved effective in hitting high-value targets on all three occasions, hailing them as without compare and as almost impossible to take down when in flight.

“We have deployed it three times during the special military operation,” Shoigu said in an interview broadcast on Rossiya 1. “And three times it showed brilliant characteristics.”

Russia first used the Kinzhal system in Ukraine about a month after sending tens of thousands of troops into its neighbour’s territory, striking a large weapons depot in Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

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This week, Russia’s defence ministry said three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal missiles had been relocated to the Kaliningrad region, a Russian Baltic coast exclave located between NATO and European Union members Poland and Lithuania.

On Russia’s Navy Day late last month, Putin announced that the navy would receive what he called “formidable” hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles in coming months. The missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound, outrunning air defences.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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