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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia suspends Iskander missile exports to equip military

RIA Novosti

12/11/2008 15:22 MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Wednesday it was not planning to export Iskander tactical missile systems until Russia's Armed Forces have been fully supplied with them.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this month the country would deploy Iskander-M systems (SS-26 Stone) with a range of 500 km (311 miles) in the Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, to "neutralize if necessary" a proposed U.S missile defense system in Central Europe. (VIDEO)

"There will be a break in Iskander supplies abroad until we have supplied the Russian Armed Forces with them," Nikolai Dimidyuk, a senior Rosoboronexport official, said, adding the companies producing the systems are not facing financial problems despite the ongoing credit crisis.

However, Dimidyuk said neighboring Belarus would be supplied with the Iskander-E system, which is a shorter-range export version of the Iskander-M. The decision was announced in 2007 and was prompted by the proposed missile shield elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Medvedev's move sparked a wave of criticism in Europe, while some experts in Russia have expressed doubts over the reliability of Moscow's response to Washington's missile shield plans.

The relatively new Iskander missiles have only been subject to test firing. Although the tests were reported to have been successful, some experts believe it will be impossible to set up the five proposed Iskander brigades in Kaliningrad over the next 4-5 years due to a lack of production facilities and a workforce shortage.

Kommersant daily earlier reported the army has been hit by delays in Iskander deliveries since 2005. A training battalion in southern Russia's testing ground Kapustin Yar is the only unit armed with four Iskander systems so far. The planned brigades in Kaliningrad require 60 systems as well as other equipment.

Dimidyuk earlier said a number of countries, including Syria, the UAE, Malaysia and India, had shown an interest in the missile system.

Earlier Russia was reported to be interested in exporting the Iskander-E to Algeria, Kuwait, Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea.

The Iskander-E 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).

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