A Russian soldier stands guard March 5 near the Ukrainian navy ship Slavutich in the harbor of the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol. (Filippo Monteforte / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Russia informed the United States in advance that it would carry out a launch Tuesday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, US officials said, downplaying the test amid tensions with Moscow.
The ICBM launch was routine and the US government was notified “before the crisis started in Ukraine,” a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The test launch came at a moment of high tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine, where the Crimean peninsula has been put under de facto control by Kremlin-backed troops.
But US officials declined to comment on the effect of the missile test on Russia’s relations with Washington.
“This was a previously notified and routine test launch of an ICBM,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.
“Such advance notifications are intended to provide transparency, confidence, and predictability and to help both sides avoid misunderstandings,” she said in a statement.
Russia and the United States “routinely” stage flight tests for ballistic missile fleets, she added.
In Moscow, a Russian defense official told state news agencies that the launch involved the RS-12M Topol, a road-mobile missile last reportedly tested by Russia on December 28.
The launch, carried out from a site near the southern city of Volgograd, was supposed to test an advanced payload on the missile, the official said.
The missile has a reported maximum range of 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers).
Russia has been testing warheads that could evade a missile defense system the United States is deploying together with NATO in Europe, despite Moscow’s strong objections.
NATO countries say the missile shield is designed to counter missile threats from Iran, not Russia.