WASHINGTON - The Kremlin has confirmed that two of Russia's main television channels broadcast details of a planned new nuclear torpedo, apparently accidentally, and said it hopes it will not happen again.
However, in the wake of the incident, state media have prominently featured an interview with a defense expert giving more details about the "secret" weapon, fueling speculation that the original leak was no accident.
On Tuesday evening, NTV television and Channel One state television, which are under strict Kremlin control, both featured footage from a meeting that President Vladimir Putin held with top defense officials in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
At one point, the camera points over what appears to be the shoulder of one of the uniformed military officials attending the meeting, at a document he is holding headlined "Ocean Multipurpose System 'Status-6.'” The document includes drawings of what appears to be a torpedo or an underwater drone. The meeting can be watched on YouTube, with details about the weapon starting at 1:49.
The document states that the planned weapons system will be able to create "extensive zones of radioactive contamination" in "enemy" coastal areas, making them "unsuitable" for military, economic or other activity "for a long time."
"It is true that some secret information was caught by the camera and therefore it was subsequently removed,'' Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Wednesday. "We hope this will not happen again.''
Yet, on Thursday, Radio Sputnik, which is part of the Russian state news agency Sputnik, featured an interview with Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of the magazine Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense), who provided further details about the Status-6 weapons system.
"Status-6 is a conglomeration of the latest Russian submarine technology," Korotchenko said in the interview, which was also extensively quoted by RIA Novosti and Tass state news agencies. "The purpose of this ocean system is transporting a high-powered nuclear warhead to the coast of the enemy."
Korotchenko continued: "The United States is actively developing an anti-missile defense system and putting very serious money into this, hoping ...to create an impenetrable shield over the United States. But Russia will have capabilities to neutralize any of America's military-technical solutions."
During his meetings in Sochi with military officials earlier this week, Putin said the "true purpose" of the planned U.S.-led missile shield is "to neutralize the potential of other nuclear states ...primarily Russia."
Russia, he said, would counter it by developing "strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses."