Russian President Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
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 reports.
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 United States 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
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
European Union partners.
MISSILE SHIELD DISPUTE
Asked about the reports on Monday, 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. He could not immediately be reached
for comment by Reuters.
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. Efforts to
turn years of confrontation over the issue into cooperation
"We are worried about militarisation of Kaliningrad region
and modernisation of its weaponry," Juozas Olekas,
Lithuania's defence minister, said in an e-mail to Reuters.
"We have repeatedly brought this issue up in various
In addition to threatening to station Iskanders in
Kaliningrad, then-President Dmitry Medvedev said in 2011
Russia could deploy weapons in its west that would be able to
destroy components of the anti-missile shield.
An interceptor installation is to be deployed in Poland by
2018 as part of the shield, which is to be completed after
2020 and which the United States says is meant to protect
against potential threats from the Middle East.
The Iskander-M has a range of about 400 km (250 miles), which
means missiles based in Kaliningrad could reach deep into
Poland, Lithuania or Latvia.
"At the moment I can't imagine Russia shooting into a NATO
country ... If this missile upgrade has already taken place,
it's just a show-off, and is intended to scare," a senior
Lithuanian official told Reuters, speaking on condition of
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited the missile shield
as one of the reasons Russia must maintain a strong military
and has pledged to spend 23 trillion roubles ($700 billion)
by 2020 to upgrade defence.
Already strained by disagreements on issues from energy to
human rights since Putin returned to the Kremlin last year,
relations between Russia and the West have been worsened
recently by the situation in Ukraine, whose government last
month ditched preparations for a trade pact with the European
Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow, its former