Moscow: Russia has said that its latest nuclear weapons system, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile has now been placed on combat duty, CNN reported.

It was due to begin combat operations at the end of 2022.

"The Sarmat strategic complex has been put on combat duty," Yury Borisov, the director general of the state space corporation Roscosmos, said in a media appearance on Friday.

According to CNN, the Sarmat will replace Soviet-era Voevoda missiles, known by the NATO designation SS-18 "Satan," in Russia's strategic arsenal. As the SS-18's successor, the Sarmat has been nicknamed "Satan II" in the West.

In April last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Sarmat would be able to carry several nuclear bombs as far as the United States' continental territory and that it would "give thought to those who are trying to threaten Russia,” according to CNN.

At that time, Western analysts told CNN that Satan II posed an "extremely low" threat to the US and its allies and that Putin's public testing of the weapon may have been done to cover up Russia's military shortcomings in its conflict in Ukraine.

According to the Missile Defence Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the Sarmat could carry 10 and potentially more independently targeted nuclear bombs with a range of up to 18,000 kilometres (or approximately 11,185 miles), as reported by CNN.

It is anticipated to replace the Voevoda missiles exactly one-for-one. Satan II was compared to a "facelift" for the Soviet-era SS-18 by Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, though he acknowledged that there were "probably some enhancements under the hood."

Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday started holding regional elections in “occupied areas” of Ukraine, CNN reported on Thursday citing Kyiv officials.

Ukraine has condemned the move and has urged citizens in “occupied areas” not to vote in upcoming elections planned by Russian-appointed officials, adding they should "leave the region" if possible."

Russians have started holding 'elections' to pseudo-local councils and 'legislative bodies' in the temporarily occupied territories," CNN quoted Ukraine's National Resistance Centre (NRC), an official agency, as saying.