17 August 2018

Russia rejects criticism about reported missile deployment in Kaliningrad

KONFRONTASI - Russia has countered criticism by NATO and its neighbors about the reported deployment of missile systems in the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, saying Moscow has the legitimate right to have weapons anywhere it chooses on its territory.

“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 Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday.

The official was responding to questions regarding reports that Russia had stationed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. A senior Russian lawmaker as well as the president of Lithuania, which neighbors Kaliningrad, both said the missile systems had been deployed to the region.

Peskov came short of confirming the deployment but said neighbors and others should not be worried even if it was the case.

“It should hardly be cause for anyone to worry,” he said, adding, “Russia has never threatened anyone and is not threatening anyone. Naturally, Russia has this sovereign right (to deploy weapons on its own territory).”

Russia has increased its military activity along its western borders over the past years, especially since a conflict that began in Ukraine in 2014 later turned into a row between Moscow and Western governments. Russia defends the beefed-up security in the region, saying it is a response to increased NATO deployments in neighboring countries.

Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all NATO members, have reacted to reports of Russia’s new missile deployment, as Iskander missiles would be able to reach large swathes of territory in those countries.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Monday that the deployment necessitated en even escalated eastward expansion of troops and weapons deployments by NATO.

“This again makes the situation even more serious because Iskanders in Kaliningrad means dangers for half of European capitals,” said Grybauskaite.[ptv]