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Russia May Send More Iskander Missiles To Kaliningrad


A Russian tactical missile Iskander-M fired during the Zapad-2017 military exercises last month

Russia may send more of its most advanced missiles to its Kaliningrad region in response to U.S. military deployments on NATO's eastern flank, a prominent Russian lawmaker said.

Retired General Vladimir Shamanov, who heads the defense committee in the lower house of parliament, said on October 12 that Russia could deploy additional Iskander missile systems in western areas including Kaliningrad, an exclave on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland.

Shamanov said the move would be a response to the stationing of a U.S. armored brigade in Poland, which he claimed was "categorically forbidden by international agreements."

U.S. and NATO officials said no deployments in the region have violated any agreements with Russia or any other countries.

The high-precision Iskander has a range of up to 500 kilometers, allowing it to target facilities in several NATO member states. It can be fitted with a conventional or a nuclear warhead.

Shamanov's comments came as Russia accused the United States of illegally building up its forces in Poland and the Baltic region, claiming it had quietly deployed an armored division in what it alleged was a breach of the main pact that governs Russia's relations with NATO -- the NATO-Russia Founding Act signed in 1997.

The United States and NATO denied the accusations.

The Russian Defense Ministry's chief spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that troops from the U.S. 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team were supposed to have rotated out of the region, leaving their equipment to be manned by colleagues from the U.S. 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team..

Instead, Konashenkov said, the 2nd Armored Brigade quietly deployed to Poland with its own armored vehicles during Russia's Zapad-2017 joint military exercises in Belarus in September, while tanks and armored vehicles from the 3rd Brigade were left behind and could be manned within 2 hours by bringing in troops from a base in Germany.

"So despite declarations from NATO and the U.S. about 'the insignificant nature' of troops concentrated along the Russian border, a mechanized division, rather than a brigade, has been deployed," Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov asserted that concerns aired by Western officials about Zapad were a "smokescreen" to cloak the deployment.

NATO spokesman Piers Cazalet dismissed the accusations on October 12, saying that "NATO fully abides by the NATO-Russia Founding Act."

"Any accusation that NATO is violating the act or breaking its promises, is untrue," Cazalet said in a statement.

He said NATO's deployment of 4,000 troops to Eastern Europe following Russia's occupation and seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region and "additional bilateral deployments by the United States are well below any reasonable definition of 'substantial combat forces' mentioned in the NATO-Russia Founding Act."

The alliance's actions are "defensive, proportionate, and fully in line with international commitments," Cazalet said.

The U.S, Embassy in Poland said there was no violation of the agreement. The embassy said the presence of U.S. troops in the country was rotational, with the soldiers replacing each other every nine months.

In the Founding Act, NATO said that "in the current and foreseeable security environment," the alliance would refrain from "additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces."

While NATO says it is adhering to that pledge, some Western officials contend that, in any case, Russia's seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since 2014 have changed the security environment.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, TASS, and Interfax
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