Russia Blasts As 'Fake News' Fresh Pentagon Charge Of Anti-Satellite Weapon In Space

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 03:05 PM

At a moment nuclear tensions are soaring due to Russia launching tactical nuclear military drills in its southern district near Ukraine this week, Washington and Moscow are trading barbs over allegations of banned weapons in space. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asserted on Wednesday that there's been no violation of international law after the Pentagon again charged that Russia launched a satellite carrying a counterspace weapon. Another top Russian official decried this as "fake news".

US Department of Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder on Tuesday in a briefing said that on May 16 Russia "launched a satellite into low Earth orbit that we that we assess is likely a counter space weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit." This was in apparent reference to the launch of a Soyuz rocket from the Plesetsk launch site, which Russia has previously affirmed was carrying a spacecraft of some type.

A Soyuz rocket launching in Russia's far east, via Reuters/handout.

"Russia deployed this new counter space weapon into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite," Ryder continued. "And so assessments further indicate characteristics resembling previously deployed counter space payloads from 2019 and 2022."

Peskov's response Wednesday was as follows: "I cannot comment on this in any way. Here, we act absolutely in accordance with international law, we do not violate anything."

Importantly, he said that Russia has repeated reached out in hopes of advancing talks with the US to prohibit certain types of weapons in space, but this was rejected. "We have repeatedly advocated for a ban on the launch of any weapons into space. Unfortunately, these initiatives of ours were rejected, including by the United States," Peskov said.

Separately, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has flatly rejected the Pentagon's charge. "I don’t think we should respond to any fake news from Washington," he said as quoted by Interfax.

"The Americans can say whatever they want but our policy does not change from this," said Ryabkov. He stressed that Moscow had "always consistently opposed the deployment of strike weapons in low-Earth orbit."

Currently allegations are also flying in major Western media outlets alleging that Russia has for years been pursuing a robust space weapons program. For example, days ago The Wall Street Journal detailed a secretive launch that happened some two years ago, based on US officials revealing the info:

Russia launched a satellite into space in February 2022 that is designed to test components for a potential antisatellite weapon that would carry a nuclear device, U.S. officials said. 

The satellite that was launched doesn’t carry a nuclear weapon. But U.S. officials say it is linked to a continuing Russian nuclear antisatellite program that has been a growing worry for the Biden administration, Congress and experts outside the government in recent months. The weapon, if deployed, would give Moscow the ability to destroy hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit with a nuclear blast.

The satellite in question, known as Cosmos-2553, was launched on Feb. 5, 2022, and is still traveling around the Earth in an unusual orbit. It has been secretly operating as a research and development platform for nonnuclear components of the new weapon system, which Russia has yet to deploy, other officials said. 

Putin's rebuttal of recent US allegations was issued back in February:

Revelation of that launch is said to have in part driven the recent frenzy of Congressional statements raising the alarm over Russian malign activities in space. However, others cited in the same WSJ report have said that Russia's program has yet to advance very far.

Meanwhile President Putin himself has tried to bat down the allegations as well, saying recently, "Our position is clear and transparent: We have always been categorically against, and are now against, the placement of nuclear weapons in space."