Russia rejects Western criticism of Baltic missile build-up
The Kremlin has brushed off Western criticism of the deployment of state-of-the art missiles in Russia's Baltic Sea region, describing it as an equivalent response to Nato's military build-up near its borders.
The Russian military has reportedly stationed anti-shipping missiles in the nation's westernmost Kaliningrad exclave, and a senior legislator has announced the deployment of other missile systems.
The US State Department and Nato have voiced concern, describing the Russian move as destabilising.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the Russian military needs to respond to what he described as Nato's aggressive moves.
"Russia is doing what is necessary to protect itself amid Nato's expansion toward its borders," Mr Peskov said.
"The alliance is a truly aggressive bloc, so Russia does what it has to do. It has every sovereign right to take necessary measures throughout the territory of the Russian Federation."
The Interfax news agency reported on Monday that the Russian military has put Bastion missile-launchers on duty in the Kaliningrad region, which borders Nato members Poland and Lithuania.
The Russian Defence Ministry said over the weekend that the Baltic Fleet was rearming itself with new missile-launchers, but did not provide specifics.
Separately, Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, told RIA Novosti news agency that Russia would also deploy Iskander tactical ballistic missiles and S-400 air defence missile systems to Kaliningrad in response to the US missile defence plans.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby warned on Monday that the deployment of Iskander and S-400 missiles to Kaliningrad is "destabilising to European security" and urged Moscow to "refrain from words or deeds that are inconsistent with the goal of promoting security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region".
Nato said in a statement that the missile deployment near the alliance's borders "does not help to lower tensions or restore predictability to our relations". The alliance called for more transparency on military activities "to avoid incidents and the risk of misunderstandings".
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov struck back, saying it is up to the Russian leadership to determine troops' locations.
"Russia isn't a source of security threat now. It's the build-up of weapons and servicemen from outside Europe," he said pointing at US missile sites in Europe and the planned build-up of US troops in Poland and the Baltics.
The Kremlin has long warned that the development of Nato's US-led missile defence system poses a danger to Russia's security and vowed to take counter-measures. Moscow has also complained strongly against the deployment of Nato's military units near Russia's borders.
In an interview with American film-maker Oliver Stone included in a documentary about the Ukrainian crisis broadcast in Russia late on Monday, Mr Putin warned that Moscow would target Nato sites if it thinks they threaten Russia.
"We have to take counter-measures, targeting the facilities that we perceive as a threat with our missile systems," he said.