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Baltics react to reports of missiles in Kaliningrad

By Anatol Steven. 17.12.2013

Iskander missiles
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Russia confirms deployment of Iskander missiles that could reach Latvia

Latvia and its neighbors have told the news agency Reuters that news of Russia deploying Iskander missiles with a range of several hundred kilometers in its Kaliningrad exclave has created unnecessary political tension in the region.

The missiles, which have been in place for around 18 months according to unnamed Russian military sources, have a range of around 400km. That could reach targets in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

A story in the German newspaper Bild on December 14 said that secret satellite imagery showed Iskander-M missiles stationed near the Polish border. The pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia confirmed the reports on December 16.

The reports are causing alarm in Poland and the Baltics, especially in a period of tension between Russia and the European Union over Ukraine.

“We have followed these events for quite some time, and this is not a surprise for us,” Latvia’s defence minister, Artis Pabriks, told Reuters.

“It creates unnecessary political tension and suspicions and reduces mutual trust, because we don’t see a reason why the Russians would need such weapons here. I think it’s just to show who is the boss in the region.”

Lithuania’s defence minister, Juozas Olekas, said in an email to Reuters: “We are worried about the militarization of the Kaliningrad region and the modernization of its weaponry. We have repeatedly brought this issue up in various multilateral forums.”

Speaking anonymously, a senior Lithuanian official told Reuters: “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.”

Russia argues that basing missiles in Kaliningrad does not violate international treaties and is in response to an anti-missile shield the United States is creating with NATO allies in Europe against potential threats from the Middle East.

As part of the shield, to be completed after 2020, an interceptor installation will be built in Poland by 2018.

[pictured: Iskander-E transporter; photo Wikipedia Commons]


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