Did Russia use Zircon for the first time? Ukraine claims hypersonic missile hit Kyiv last week

An expert said fragments of the engine and steering mechanisms hinted at Zircon

Europe and Africa Pictures of the Week Photo Gallery Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in an apartment building after Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine | AP

Ukraine has said that it has evidence that Russia used Zircon, an advanced hypersonic missile the first time against Ukraine since the war began. According to the experts with the government-run Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, the debris recovered from Kyiv after an attack on February 7 points towards the use of Zircon.

A post by the institute's head Oleksandr Ruvin on his Telegram channel said his institute completed a preliminary analysis of missile fragments from a Russian attack on Febuary 7. "In this case, we see elements that are characteristic of the 3M22 Zircon missile. Parts and fragments of the engine and steering mechanisms have specific markings," he wrote, along with a video of the alleged missile wreckage showing specific markings.

Though Ukraine said four people died in the Kyiv attack and 38 others were injured, it did not mention anything about the Zircon missile. 

Though Ruvin claims that the markings recovered from the wreckage indicated the weapon had been assembled recently, Russia is yet to acknowledge the use of Zircon in Ukraine. If true, this poses an additional challenge for Ukraine's embattled country's air defences.

As per Ukraine's air force, its air defence failed to bring down four Iskander ballistic missiles and four Kh-22 cruise missiles fired on February 7. 

What is a Zircon missile?

A weapon which experts claim is almost impossible to shoot down, Zircon is reportedly the fastest missile that travels nine times the speed of sound and with a range of 1,000 km (625 miles). Its hypersonic speed mean reduced reaction time for air defences and the capability to attack large, deep and hardened targets.

According to the United States-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), Zircon also boasts a plasma cloud, which helps it become invisible. "During flight, the missile is completely covered by a plasma cloud that absorbs any rays of radio frequencies and makes the missile invisible to radars. This allows the missile to remain undetected on its way to the target," it says.

Russia had previously acknowledged its existence with Russian President Vladimir Putin stating it has no analogues in any country in the world.

The Zircon was initially designed as a sea-launched weapon and a ground-launched version was developed later. Earlier reports from Russia said it deployed the missile on a warship.

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