Russia's newly appointed chief of Ground Forces denied on Thursday the country's plans to equip units in the northwestern military district with Iskander missiles later this year have anything to do with U.S. missile deployment in Europe.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in June 2009 that the first Iskander battalion entered service with the Armed Forces in 2008 and the second would become operational in 2009. Their deployment location is secret.
"It is planned to equip a brigade of the Leningrad Military District with the Iskander advanced missile systems this year. However, I would not link that to the deployment by an adjacent state, Poland, of U.S. Patriot missiles," Col. Gen. Alexander Postnikov said.
The Iskander-E (SS-26 Stone), which is an export version of the Iskander-M missile system in service with the Russian Army, is a tactical surface-to-surface missile complex designed to deliver high-precision strikes at a variety of ground targets at a range of up to 280 km (170 miles). It carries a single warhead with a payload of 400 kg to comply with the limits laid down by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
"These are the Russian Army's development and construction plans," Postnikov specified.
The United States scrapped earlier plans last September for an antimissile defense system in Europe, which also included an interceptor missile base in Poland, earning a strong welcome from Moscow. But last month, Washington said it was dispatching Patriot missiles to Poland, the former Soviet-bloc state and now a NATO nation.
Russia has been alarmed by the growing NATO presence on its western borders and threatened to respond to any change in the military balance on the borders.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov warned last week that Moscow could still deploy Iskander missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea if new threats emerge in Europe.
MOSCOW, February 25 (RIA Novosti)