When President Vladimir Putin announced on March 1 that Russia has a “new invincible” nuclear ballistic missile, it was a “What the Hell!?” moment for Americans: on a large screen behind Russian leader, a video animation showed the missiles making majestic circles around the globe, change course to avoid obstacles, and ultimately fly to their target – the U.S. State of Florida.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin said.
The following day, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said his boss’s’ threat “wasn’t tied to any particular country.” Peskov denied the image in Putin’s animated presentation was the State of Florida, claiming it showed “absolutely arbitrary geographical outlines.”
“I repeat again, and the President said this: Russia is not going to attack anyone, and these weapons do not pose a threat to anyone who does not harbor the intentions of attacking our country,” Peskov said.
There are two claims in the Kremlin press secretary's statement that require fact-check and fall into the category of classic disinformation.
The image on display as the target of Russia’s new nuclear weapon during Vladimir Putin’s presentation was easily recognizable as the exact replica of a satellite image of the State of Florida available publically on the Geology.com Website
Given Peskov’s implied threat against anyone who harbors “the intentions of attacking our country,” it is worth noting that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Geneva two days earlier, on February 28, accused the United States of preparing “European countries for using tactical nuclear weapons against Russia."
As for Putin’s animated presentation and the satellite image of Florida, the same animation was first shown in a 2007 documentary made by Russia’s government-controlled television Channel One, which featured Russia’s new “invincible” ballistic missile system, called “Satan.”
Unlike Putin’s 2018 video demo, which stopped before the missiles reached their target, the Russian “Satan” in the 2007 animation hit its target and the video ended with simulated explosions over Florida. The narrator in the 2007 production said, in Russian: “Just one such missile is capable of simultaneously destroying three American states, like Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island.”
This is not the first time Russian government-linked media have threatened the United States with “nuclear apocalypse.” Dmitry Kiselyov, the Kremlin’s chief propagandist and the head of Rossiya Segodnya, the international information agency that includes RT and Sputnik, once threatened on his TV program to turn the U.S. into “radioactive ash.”