MOSCOW (Reuters) -Rare footage was shown on Wednesday of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing accompanied by officers carrying the so-called nuclear briefcase which can be used to order a nuclear strike.
Putin, after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, was filmed walking to another meeting surrounded by security and followed by two Russian naval officers in uniform each carrying a briefcase. The camera zooms in on one of the briefcases.
Russia’s nuclear briefcase is traditionally carried by a naval officer. Known as the “Cheget” (named after Mount Cheget in the Caucasus Mountains), the briefcase is with the president at all times but is rarely filmed.
“There are certain suitcases without which no trip of Putin’s is complete,” the Kremlin correspondents of state news agency RIA said in a post on Telegram under the footage.
In another clip, Putin walks out of a meeting in Beijing with the naval officers again filmed just a few paces from Putin who grins as he walks down some stairs.
The U.S. president also has such a device – called the “nuclear football”. The satchel holds the codes the president would use to authenticate an order to launch nuclear missiles should he or she not be at the White House.
The Ukraine war has raised tensions between Moscow and Washington to the highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis just as China seeks to bolster its nuclear arsenal to accord with its status as an emerging superpower.
Russia’s parliament took the first step on Tuesday towards revoking ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and its top lawmaker warned the United States that Moscow might even abandon the pact altogether.
Essentially, the briefcase is a secure communication tool that links the president to his military top brass and thence to rocket forces via the highly secret “Kazbek” electronic command-and-control network. Kazbek supports another system known as “Kavkaz”.
The Russian defence minister, currently Sergei Shoigu, also has a nuclear briefcase. The chief of the general staff, currently Valery Gerasimov, may also have one.
Footage shown by Russia’s Zvezda television channel in 2019 showed what it said was one of the briefcases with an array of buttons.
In a section called “command” there are two buttons: a white “launch” button and a red “cancel” button. The briefcase is activated by a special flashcard, according to Zvezda.
One of the nuclear briefcases used by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is displayed in the Yeltsin Museum in Yekaterinburg.
Putin is visiting Beijing on his second known trip outside the former Soviet Union since the Ukraine war began in February 2022.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Nick Macfie)