Russia activates missile warning system near EU

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Russia on Tuesday activated a radar warning system against incoming missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the EU, in response to Western plans for a US missile shield in Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced that the Voronezh-DM station was moving onto immediate combat readiness, days after threatening to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad amid a growing dispute with the West.

"I expect that this step will be seen by our partners as the first signal of the readiness of our country to make an adequate response to the threats which the (Western) missile shield poses for our strategic nuclear forces," Medvedev said.

Using rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, he added: "If this signal is not heard, we will deploy other methods of protection including the taking of tough countermeasures and the deployment of strike forces."

Medvedev said last week Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles, which officials say have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles), in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped US missile shield which Washington said is aimed solely at "rogue" states like Iran but Moscow believes would also target its own capability.

Medvedev said Russia needed to hear more than promises from the West to resolve the standoff.

"Verbal statements do not guarantee our interests. If other steps are made then of course we are ready to listen," added Medvedev in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

"We can no longer be content with verbal promises that the (US missile shield) system is not aimed against Russia. These are empty statements and do not guarantee our security."

But he said that the activation of the Kaliningrad station "does not close the door for dialogue" with the United States on missile defence.

Kaliningrad is part of the former German East Prussia region that was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and remains one of Moscow's prime territorial strategic assets.

© 2011 AFP

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