The Kremlin has stressed it has the sovereign right to deploy missiles on its own territory after reports Russia deployed the Iskander nuclear-capable missile system in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
Russia said on Tuesday that it had the right to put weapons anywhere it chose on its own territory after reports that Moscow had deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad drew criticism from its neighbors and NATO.
Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, and the missiles would be able to reach large parts of territory in NATO-members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The president of Lithuania, which neighbors Kaliningrad, and a senior Russian lawmaker, both said the missile systems had been deployed to the region. Russia has not confirmed the deployment.
While on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the reports. “The deployment of one weapon or another, the deployment of military units and so forth on Russian territory, is exclusively a sovereign issue for the Russian Federation,” said Peskov. “Russia has never threatened anyone and is not threatening anyone. Naturally, Russia has this sovereign right. It should hardly be cause for anyone to worry.”
NATO concern over missiles
In Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said that developments in Kaliningrad fresh impetus to discussions already underway inside NATO about improving the alliance’s capabilities.
“It means that what we have been talking about — the necessity to discuss strengthening air defense elements during the NATO summit in July; strengthening the chain of command, to talk about many questions that affect defense of our region and Latvia specifically — it all has been confirmed by the practical actions of Russia,” said Rinkevics.
The alleged placement of Iskander missiles so close to NATO territory are perceived by some alliance members as a threat at a time when tensions between Russia and its Western neighbors are running high over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
“This again makes the situation even more serious because Iskanders in Kaliningrad means dangers for half of European capitals,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Monday.
The Kremlin has often said it would station Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to counter the US missile shield being developed in eastern Europe. Washington says the purpose of that shield is designed to counter possible missile attacks by Iran. However, Moscow says it is directed against Russia.
A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Any deployment close to our borders of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads does not help to lower tensions. In the spirit of transparency, we look forward to hearing more from Russia on this.”
av/aw (Reuters, Interfax, ap)