Ukraine claims it has evidence that Russia fired an advanced hypersonic missile — one that experts say is nearly impossible to shoot down — for the first time in nearly two years of war.

The government-run Kiev Forensic Scientific Research Institute said in a Telegram post that debris recovered after a Feb. 7 attack on the Ukrainian capital pointed to the military’s use of a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. Russian.

“The markings on the pieces and fragments, the identification of components and parts and the characteristics of the corresponding weapon type” point to the first use of the Zircon in combat, said the institute, which is part of Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice.

The Telegram post was accompanied by a video showing dozens of debris believed to have come from the new missile.

Ukrainian authorities reported that four people were killed and 38 others were injured in kyiv during the February 7 attacks, but no casualties have been directly attributed to the suspected Zircon missile.

Firefighters are seen extinguishing a fire in an apartment block in the Holosiivskyi district of kyiv, Ukraine, on February 7, 2024, after it was hit by falling Russian missile debris following a Russian attack.  - Serhii Loparev/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/Reuters

Firefighters are seen extinguishing a fire in an apartment block in the Holosiivskyi district of kyiv, Ukraine, on February 7, 2024, after it was hit by falling Russian missile debris following a Russian attack. – Serhii Loparev/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/Reuters

The missile’s launch platform was also not mentioned, although previous reports in Russian state media say it has been deployed on a warship.

Experts say that Zircon, if it lives up to what the Russian government says about it, is a formidable weapon.

Its hypersonic speed makes it invulnerable to even the best Western missile defenses, such as the Patriot, according to the US-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA).

The alliance says its speed has been set at Mach 8, or nearly 9,900 kilometers per hour (6,138 mph). Hypersonic is defined as any speed greater than Mach 5 (3,836 mph).

“If that information is accurate, the Zircon missile would be the fastest in the world, making it nearly impossible to defend against due to its speed alone,” the alliance says on its website.

The site also notes the missile’s plasma cloud as another “valuable” feature.

“During flight, the missile is completely covered by a cloud of plasma that absorbs any radio frequency rays and makes it invisible to radars. This allows the missile to go unnoticed on its way to the target,” he says.

Additionally, the MDAA says the Zircon is “a hypersonic anti-maneuver ship cruise missile” with a range of between 500 and 1,000 kilometers (310 to 620 miles).

When the Russian navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov departed on a combat mission last January, leader Vladimir Putin boasted about the Zircon missiles the ship carried.

“It has no analogues in any country in the world,” Putin said, according to a report by state media agency TASS. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from possible external threats and help ensure the national interests of our country,” he added.

If Russia has introduced the new weapon into the conflict, it could spell trouble for a Ukrainian air defense already struggling to repel airstrikes from Moscow.

For example, in that February 7 attack in which the Zircon was allegedly used, three Iskander ballistic missiles and four Kh-22 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces evaded attempts to shoot them down, Russian air force data show. Ukraine.

Although air defenses have shot down Iskander missiles in the past, Ukraine is believed to have failed to intercept a single Kh-22 in nearly two years of war. In December, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia had fired nearly 300 Kh-22s so far in the war.

Ukraine’s air defenses had some success during the February 7 attack, shooting down 26 of 29 Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kh-55 type cruise missiles, all three Kalibr cruise missiles and 15 of 20 Shahed drones. shot by Russia. But they are less advanced than Zircon.

Despite this, analysts warn against exaggerating the impact that the use of Zircon could have on the war as a whole.

As this is a new – and expensive – technology, one question is: how many has Russia produced?

A “key consideration is Russia’s ability to produce and deploy a capability like Zircon at scale, especially as the program will compete for financial and other resources with priorities such as rebuilding Russian ground forces,” said Sidharth Kaushal, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute. in London, he wrote last year after Admiral Gorshkov was supposedly deployed with Zircons on board.

CNN’s Svitlana Vlasova, Mariya Knight, Andrew Carey and Jack Guy contributed to this report.

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By Sam