October 8, 2016
|An Iskander-E short-range ballistic missile launcher (AFP Photo/Ria Novosti)|
Russia is again deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad outpost that borders two NATO members, Lithuania said Saturday, warning the move was aimed at pressuring the West into making concessions over Syria and Ukraine.
Poland also reacted angrily to Moscow's move while Lithuania added that it could breach a key nuclear weapons treaty.
"Russia is holding military exercises in Kaliningrad, and its scenario includes deployment of Iskander missile systems and the possibile use of them. We are aware of it," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP.
He said modified Iskander missiles had a range of up to 700 kilometres (435 miles) which means they could reach the German capital Berlin from the Russian exclave, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
Linkevicius said that this time he thought Moscow was using the move to "seek concessions from the West".
Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz on Saturday called Russia's activities "very alarming".
Lithuania meanwhile said the Iskander deployment could breach the international nuclear arms treaty.
"Such actions are possible violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Russia's defence ministry on Saturday confirmed deployment of the Iskander hardware but dismissed Western concerns, saying that "contingents of missile troops have been moved many times and will continue to be moved to Kaliningrad region as part of a Russian armed forces training plan."
Kaliningrad is "not an exception" to drills conducted across the country, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in an emailed statement.
Estonian media reported on Friday that Russia was shipping Iskanders on a civilian vessel in the Baltic sea.
Konashenkov said that one Iskander was placed in the open to "confirm the parameters of operation" of a US intelligence satellite he alleged was flying overhead.
Moscow sent Iskanders to Kaliningrad in 2015 as part of a series of mammoth military drills as tensions with the West reached their worst point since the Cold War, triggered by Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its military campaign in Syria a year later.
The United States on Friday called for Russia and Syria to be investigated for war crimes for the bombing of hospitals in Aleppo, and accused Moscow of trying to "interfere" with the American presidential election.