Russia has reportedly deployed advanced nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to its westernmost region of Kaliningrad that borders the Baltic countries of Poland and Lithuania, in an apparent move to counter US military buildup in the region.
RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Shamanov, Head of the Russian Lower House of Parliament’s Defense Committee, as saying on Monday that Iskander missile systems had been sent to Kaliningrad, but did not say how many or for how long.
“Yes, they have been deployed,” the news agency quoted Shamanov as saying. “The deployment of foreign military infrastructure automatically falls onto the priority list for targeting.”
Russia has previously deployed Iskander missiles to its Baltic enclave on a temporary basis for drills and as a response to the US military buildup near its western border.
The Iskander, a mobile ballistic missile system codenamed SS-26 Stone by NATO, has an operational range of up to 500 kilometers and can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
In a swift reaction to the Monday deployment, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite claimed that the missiles were being stationed for a “permanent presence,” and accused Moscow of posing a danger to “half” of Europe’s capitals.
Russia is wary of NATO’s expansion on its doorsteps where the US-led military alliance has deployed around 4,000 troops, including four battle groups, to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland in recent years.
Realizing that security threat under its nose, Russia has held several military drills to maintain preparedness, with the NATO countries having then referred to those drills as signs that Russia has aggressive and not defensive intentions.
Moscow calls NATO’s military buildup at its doorstep a threat to its national security and accuses the alliance of fear-mongering to justify larger defense expenditure by its member states.
Meanwhile, NATO — largely made up of Western European countries — accuses Russia of having a hand in a crisis in Ukraine, which Moscow denies.