What are laser weapons? Are they being used in Ukraine and why is Volodymyr Zelensky mocking them?

Russia have claimed to be using laser weapons in Ukraine that can burn up drones 5km away within five seconds.

The Kremlin have claimed that such weapons are being used to counter technologies in Ukraine given to them by the West.

Russian deputy prime minister Yury Burisov in charge of military development claimed secret laser technology was already in use in Ukraine, with Russia using the conflict to test out the weaponry that was reportedly first introduced in 2018.

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But what are laser weapons? Are they in use in Ukraine? And why have they been mocked as “wunder-waffe” by Zelensky?

A Russian serviceman stands guard at the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar. via Getty Images

Here’s what you need to know.

What are laser weapons?

Laser weapons were first touted by Russia in 2018 amid a new array of weapons showcased by the Kremlin.

Naturally, details of such a laser weapon was kept under wraps, with Russia thought to be looking to enhance laser weapon technology. Russian President, Vladimir Putin has made comments on laser technology, mentioning one such weapon called Peresvet.

The system is said by Russia to be able to blind satellites up to 932 miles above Earth. The idea behind the system is to stop satellite intelligence and monitoring of both the situation on the ground in Ukraine and Russia.

Discussing laser weapons yesterday, Yuri Borisov said the systems were capable of taking down drones three miles away and blinding satellites.

Borisov said: “It is already being mass-supplied to the (missile) troops, and it can blind all satellite reconnaissance systems of a likely enemy in orbits of up to 1,500 km, disabling them during flight due to the use of laser radiation”

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“But that, let's say, is of today, or even in some ways of yesterday: our physicists have now created, and practically mass-produced, laser systems which are more powerful by an order of magnitude that can inflict thermal destruction on various apparatus.”

While Russia have showcased new ballistic missiles and nuclear technology, The Kremlin often shows off new prototype technology and it is often never seen on the battlefield.

It is understood that many of the world’s superpowers have been working on such weapons, however, Russia are now claiming to have successfully created them.

Are laser weapons being used in Ukraine?

Russia have claimed that laser weapons are being used in Ukraine and that the weapon was known as the Zadira.

Russian media said state nuclear corporation Rosatom had helped develop Zadira as part of a program in 2017.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.”

He added: “If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,”

Why has Volodymyr Zelensky mocked the laser weapons?

It is clear that not much is known about the Russian claims. Naturally much of their intelligence in weapon development is treated as classified.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia’s reported use of “laser weapons” in its invasion of his country is a sign of their failure – hinting that much of the claims made by Russia in regards to weaponry have not been seen on the battlefield.

Zelensky compared the claims of Russia to those of the Nazi’s in WW2 with their claim of “wunder-waffe” – or wonder weapons, in reference to the hunt for a wonder weapon that would turn the tide of World War II while the Nazis were losing on the battlefield.

He added that the reported use of “laser weapons” in Russia’s invasion of his country is a sign of their failure.

In a late night video message he said: "The clearer it became that they had no chance in the war, the more propaganda there was about an amazing weapon that would be so powerful as to ensure a turning point.