for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up

Fact Check-Russia’s ‘Satan 2’ long-range missile has been in development for years

Russia did not unveil a new missile in 2022 which can destroy all living things in one strike, contrary to suggestions made online.

Social media users say the RS-28 Sarmat, an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) dubbed ‘Satan 2’ by Western analysts, was revealed in late February, in the days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“Breaking news; Russia unveil a nuclear weapon called ‘Satan 2 liquid fueled nuclear missile’ capable of destroying everything breathing in the world,” said one Facebook post on Feb. 25, shared more than 31,000 times.

The user added that the weapon was developed in case the United States, NATO and the West “interferes” (here) – without elaborating.

Similar posts with either thousands or hundreds of shares can be found on Facebook (here, here, here, here and here) and Twitter (here, here and here).

However, the suggestion that Russia revealed a brand new ‘Satan 2’ weapon after invading Ukraine to warn off NATO and Western interference is not accurate.

The long-range missile has been in development since the 2000s, according to Russian news agency TASS (tass.com/defense/992360).

It is due to replace older missiles developed in the 1970s (here) – an upgrade that was reportedly delayed to 2022 (bit.ly/36DqJ1b , tass.com/defense/1377823 and tass.com/defense/1376843).

Moreover, the claim that ‘Satan 2’ can destroy all living things is missing context, according to one expert who spoke to Reuters.

“Claims that a large nuclear attack would kill every living being in the world are sometimes made as a result of wider climate-changing consequences, such as a nuclear winter,” said Professor Malcolm Chalmers from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British defence and security think-tank specialising in nuclear proliferation among other disciplines (here). “This should not be ruled out, but would at a minimum require hundreds of warheads, not a single missile.”

Prof. Chalmers added that Sarmat was unlikely to make a big difference to Russia’s ICBM force due to its “already considerable destructive potential” – but said a single missile armed with 10 warheads could target areas as large as Texas or France, potentially killing millions of people.

However, “most inhabitants of either territory would be outside the blast and fallout radius, as would many towns and cities”, he said.

Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, both of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about similar exaggerations made about the new weapon’s capability (bit.ly/3q93XVS).

Other fact checks about ‘Satan 2’ can be found here and here.

VERDICT

Missing context. Russia is due to replace old missiles in 2022 with Sarmat missiles that have been in development for years. While the effects of such a missile strike would be devastating, those of a single strike have been exaggerated.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up