Moscow downplays Kaliningrad missile deployment 

Moscow downplays Kaliningrad missile deployment 

An Iskander-M. Source: Wikimedia

Russia has played down the importance of the deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad after the move led to protests from Estonia, Poland and Lithuania.

The deployment of the missiles was part of regular drills and not a secret operation to bolster its huge Balkan colony, Moscow’s defence ministry said.

“First of all, the authors behind the fuss should know that the Iskander missile system is a mobile one,” said General Igor Konashenkov from the ministry.

“As part of the combat training plan, units of the missile forces throughout the year improve their marching capabilities by covering great distances across the territory of the Russian Federation in various ways: by air, sea and on their own,” the spokesman said.

Konashenkov added that Kaliningrad “is no exemption” and that the system would be relocated to the territory in the future “as part of the military training of the Russian armed forces”.

The Iskander-M, first introduced in 2013, is designed to target missile systems, rocket launchers, long-range artillery and command posts as well as aircraft. It has a range of 500km and is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

It is highly mobile with a pair of missiles are carried on a wheeled launcher. The SS-26 missile is code-named “Stone” by Nato. It is equipped with counter-measures to try to breach enemy defences. Fired from Kaliningrad, it could reach all of the Baltic states and about two-thirds of Poland.

Armed with a nuclear warhead, its range brings it into the scope of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty of 1987, which bans the development and deployment of such weapons.

Kaliningrad’s neighbours have expressed their concern. “Recent activity by the Russian Federation raises concerns,” said Poland’s defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz. He said Poland’s military was in “permanent readiness”.

“The deployment not only increases tensions in the region but also possibly violates international treaties,” Lithuanian foreign minister, Linas Linkevičius, told Reuters.

Deputy head of Russia’s defence council Frants Klintsevich countered by saying that other states “should not fear” the move. He said the deployment was “part of the drill” as Moscow “is not at war” with its western neighbours.

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