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Russia deploys arms

Moscow, Dec. 16 (Reuters): Russia has deployed Iskander missiles with a range of hundreds of kilometres in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Nato members Poland and Lithuania, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported today.

The missiles have been in place “for some time”, according to Izvestia’s source, a high-level defence ministry official it did not name. Another unnamed military source said they were deployed about 18 months ago. The Izvestia report followed a story in German newspaper Bild on Saturday that said secret satellite imagery showed Iskander-M missiles stationed near the Polish border.

The reports caused alarm in Poland and the Baltic states, which are wary of Russian military movements after decades of dominance by the Soviet Union. Their alarm was aggravated by tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

“We have followed these events for quite some time, and this is not a surprise for us,” Artis Pabriks, defence minister of nearby Latvia, told Reuters. But he added: “It creates unnecessary political tension and suspicions and reduces mutual trust because we don't see reason why Russians would need such weapons here.

“I think it’s just to show who is the boss in the region.”

Russia said in 2011 it might put Iskanders in Kaliningrad, its westernmost region, as part of a response to an anti-missile shield the US is building in Europe with help from Nato nations. There have been media reports since of plans to deploy the missiles but no confirmation it had happened.

Poland’s foreign ministry said it had received no official information from Russia and called the news “worrying”. It said it expected consultations on the issue among Nato and EU partners.

Asked about the reports today, defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies Iskanders had been deployed in western Russia but did not specify where. Konashenkov said the deployments did not violate international treaties.

Nuclear-armed Russia says it fears the western anti-missile shield in Europe is meant to undermine its security, upsetting the post-Cold War strategic balance.

 
 
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