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Poland hits out at Medvedev's missile plans

RIA Novosti

06/11/2008 16:32 WARSAW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian president's remarks concerning the possible deployment of tactical missiles near Poland are an "unfriendly act," the Polish foreign minister said on Thursday.

Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that Russia would deploy precision-guided short-range Iskander missile systems in its westernmost Kaliningrad exclave "to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe."

Kaliningrad borders Poland and Lithuania, both NATO member states.

"This is yet another of a series of similar statements, but what is disturbing about it is that whereas previously we heard them from [Russian] generals, now we have heard it from the president [Medvedev] - moreover, in his keynote policy speech," Radoslaw Sikorski said.

He said Warsaw was surprised by Medvedev's remarks, since it previously thought that "Russia is interested in confidence building measures."

The minister said Medvedev's statement indicated that Moscow "sees itself as a rival to NATO."

"We regret that this sort of thinking prevails in Moscow," Sikorski said.

A Russian military analyst has said the deployment of Iskander systems would be the best possible response to U.S. missile plans for Europe.

Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Military Forecast Center, said the deployment of Iskander systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) would allow Russia to target the entire territory of Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic.

The Iskander-M tactical system is armed with precision-guided missiles (SS-26 Stone) reportedly capable of carrying multiple conventional or nuclear warheads.

Moscow has repeatedly objected to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security.

The United States claims the new bases are needed to counter missile attacks by "rogue states" such as Iran.

The U.S. signed deals on the missile shield with Warsaw and Prague during the summer. Polish and Czech lawmakers have yet to ratify the agreements.

Russian officials earlier said Moscow could deploy its Iskander tactical missiles and strategic bombers in Belarus, and warned that Russia could target its missiles at Poland.

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