Russian TV anchor says Moscow could turn US into 'radioactive ash'

Russian TV anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, said to be Vladimir Putin's favorite TV personality, had some provocative words for those opposing the Russian president's Ukraine gambit:

A leading anchor on Russian state television on Sunday described Russia as the only country capable of turning the United States into "radioactive ash", in an incendiary comment at the height of tensions over the Crimea referendum.

"Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash," anchor Dmitry Kiselyov said on his weekly news show on state-controlled Rossiya 1 television.

I guess it depends on the meaning of "radioactive ash" to judge whether Mr. Kiselyov is correct. China could destroy several cities in the US - as long as they didn't mind being bombed back to the stone age themselves. Interestingly, Russian nuclear readiness and maintenance has been questioned in the west. We just don't know how many Russian missiles are truly operational and ready to fly at a moment's notice - probably more than enough to destroy us.

It hardly matters because the statement is bluster - which is interesting since it's coming from state TV. That doesn't mean Putin approved any kind of nuclear threat against the US. But there are no doubt some in the Russian government who are itching to get back at what they perceive are slights and insults by America directed at Russia since the end of the cold war.

Kiselyov made the comment to support his argument that the United States and President Barack Obama were living in fear of Russia led by President Vladimir Putin amid the Ukraine crisis.

His programme was broadcast as the first exit polls were being published showing an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voting to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

He stood in his studio in front of a gigantic image of a mushroom cloud produced after a nuclear attack, with the words "into radioactive ash".

"Americans themselves consider Putin to be a stronger leader than Obama," he added, pointing to opinion polls which then popped up on the screen.

"Why is Obama phoning Putin all the time and talking to him for hours on end?" he asked.

Kiselyov has earned a reputation as one of Russia's most provocative television news hosts, in particularly with his often blatantly homophobic remarks.

But he is also hugely influential with his weekly news show broadcast at Sunday evening prime time.

Putin last year appointed Kiselyov head of the new Russia Today news agency that is to replace the soon to be liquidated RIA Novosti news agency with the aim of better promoting Russia's official position.

Kiselyov also made great play of Russia's so-called "dead hand" capability to fire nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles automatically in the case of attack.

The system, also known as Perimeter, was in use during the Cold War but its use in post-Soviet Russia is not officially confirmed.

Oh no, not the "Doomsday Machine"! Dr. Strangelove call your office.

There's nothing "dead" about the "dead hand" scenario. Any Russian nuclear strike would still have to be launched by a human - probably a junior officer in a bunker somewhere. A semi-automated system would simply transfer go codes to a predetermined location, rerouting information if the leadership has been killed or cut off from regular communications. Kiselyov doesn't know what he's talking about.

Meanwhile, President Obama issued a strongly worded statement warning Putin of "consequences."

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “No decisions should be made about the future of Ukraine without the Ukrainian government.”

Despite reports that the United States and Russia were working to seek a resolution to the Ukraine crisis, Washington remains focused on finally getting a package of Ukraine aid and Russian sanctions through Congress while coordinating with European allies to isolate Rusia economically and politically.

“We are putting as much pressure on the Russians that we can to do the right thing,” White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We have given them the opportunity to deescalate and get this in the right place, because they know there are costs to their action here. The costs are economic. The Russian economy, the Russian stock market and ruble are at five-year lows,” he said.

Lacking military options or a way to prevent the referendum, lawmakers and the Obama administration are using the United States’s global megaphone to continue hammering Putin through rhetoric and economic threats.

Round 1 of this fight is over. Putin outpoints the west decisively. But Round 2 could be a different story if there's a little more cooperation with Europe, some unamimity in Congress, and a little spin shown in the oval office.



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