The Russian Defense Ministry has announced the deployment of Iskander-M missile systems in Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, near its border with the Baltic countries and NATO member states.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the announcement on Saturday, stating that the move was a standard military activity and that the army had even deliberately exposed one of the systems to the US reconnaissance satellites.
The Russian official also condemned the hype ignited by Western media and NATO member states over the missile deployment, saying the concern over the move was baseless since it was part of regular military maneuvers in the region.
“The people behind this hype need to know that Iskander ballistic missile system is mobile. As part of the plan of combat training, missile troops units are engaged in march training on a year-round basis, covering great distances of the Russian territory in various ways: by air, sea, and on its own power,” Konashenkov said.
Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Lithuania from the north and east and Poland from the south. The Baltic Sea is on the region’s west. Russia, according to Konashenkov, has so far deployed the systems to the region “more than once.”
Poland and Lithuania expressed concern about the move, with the latter, being a NATO member, saying it would protest to Moscow.
According to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, some modifications of Iskander missiles can hit targets as far as 700 kilometers, which means they could reach the German capital Berlin from Kaliningrad.
“The deployment not only increases tensions in the region, but also possibly violates international treaties which limit deployment of ballistic missiles of range of over 500 kilometers,” the Lithuanian official said.
Lithuania also accused Moscow of seeking concessions from the West over Syria by the missiles deployment.
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz described Russia's “activities very alarming.”
Russia and NATO have been at odds over an array of issues, including the crisis in eastern Ukraine.