U.S. plan to shoot down spy satellite a cover, Russia says

Russia says the U.S. military's plan to shoot down a spy satellite hurtling toward Earth is a veiled test of their missile system.

Russia says the U.S. military's plan to shoot down a spy satellite hurtling toward Earth is a veiled test of their missile system.

A statement released Saturday by Russia's Defence Ministry said the Pentagon failed to provide "enough arguments" for why it plans to demolish the satellite.

"There is an impression that the United States is trying to use the accident with its satellite to test its national anti-missile defence system's capability to destroy other countries' satellites," the ministry said.

But the Bush administration said the operation is not a test of the defence system aimed at shooting down missiles in space before they enter American airspace.

The U.S. has said the operation is aimed at protecting people from the bus-sized satellite, carrying 450 kilograms of toxic fuel, headed toward Earth.

If nothing is done, the satellite is expected to hit Earth around the first week of March.

About half of the 2,260-kilogram spacecraft would likely survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere, scattering debris over hundreds of kilometres.

The satellite was launched in December 2006 but lost power almost immediately, leaving it uncontrollable.

Military and administration officials said the satellite carries a fuel called hydrazine that could kill or injure people near it when it hits the ground.

The operation to shoot down the dead satellite could happen as soon as next week.

With files from the Associated Press