RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CONCERNED OVER NATO FORCES DEPLOYMENT IN BALTIC COUNTRIES

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TVER, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov hopes to receive explanations from the NATO Secretary General in regard to NATO forces deployment in the Baltic countries. "NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will soon come to Russia and provide explanations," Mr. Ivanov said.

In his words, the talk is about the deployment of four air defense pursuit planes in Lithuania. It is not a major force; its deployment does not violate international agreements, the minister admitted.

"We will closely follow the NATO enlargement process. We reserve the right to take adequate measures in case the enlargement threatens Russia's security," Mr. Ivanov said. He stressed that Russia's air defense and Air Force have activated their exercises recently. Exercises with the use of A-50 reconnaissance planes were conducted on the Baltic Sea, and yesterday, similar exercises were conducted practically on the whole area of water of the Black Sea.

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