Russia is moving nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian enclave sitting between Poland and Lithuania, a U.S. intelligence official said Friday, confirming Estonian news reports.
Russia’s reasons for shipping the 500-kilometer-range Iskander-M missiles to Kaliningrad “could be innocuous,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They moved a similar missile system to Kaliningrad in 2014 for a military exercise. It could also be a political gesture – a show of strength – to express displeasure with NATO,” said the official.
Estonian Public Broadcasting
According to a government source known to ERR’s Estonian news portal, the Russian Baltic Fleet is moving an Iskander-M missile system from Ust-Luga to Kaliningrad on a civilian vessel.
The ship, called the Ambal, is currently at sea moving towards Kaliningrad, where it is expected to arrive today Friday.
The possibility exists that the violation of Estonian airspace by a Russian military plane on Thursday is connected to the move.
Asked by ERR’s Estonian news portal if he could confirm, Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso (SDE) said that they had their own channels to answer such questions. “But it’s certainly true that we have reason to keep our eyes open in the air, on the water, and everywhere else,” Hanso said.
Iskander Transport Loader 9T250
Asked if the airspace violations that occurred in Finland and Estonia on Thursday and Friday could be connected to Russia’s move, Hanso said that this possibility couldn’t be excluded.
Iskander-M is a ballistic rocket system designed to destroy strategic targets in a distance of 500 to 700 kilometers.
In 2010 and 2011 the Russian 26. missile brigade around Lake Peipus was equipped with rockets of this type (12 positions in total). According to magazine Diplomaatia, it is likely that the Iskander system was introduced to the 152. missile brigade stationed in Kaliningrad in 2012 and 2013.
The Iskander system is intended for the destruction of strategically important objects, such as airfields, ports, railroad junctions, military headquarters, and so on. From Kaliningrad, the range of the system reaches from southern Poland to central Finland.
The Ambal in the Port of Ust-Luga
Airspace violations in Finland and Estonia on Thursday and Friday
A Russian Su-27 fighter jet violated Finnish airspace at 4:43 p.m. on Thursday, and again at 9:33 p.m., the Finnish defense ministry reported.
A plane of the same type violated Estonian airspace close to the island of Vaindloo in the Gulf of Finland at 2:38 a.m. on Friday. The jet was on Estonian territory for less than a minute, the Estonian Defence Forces reported. A flight plan had not been filed, and the plane’s transponder was not active.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday to hand over a protest note.
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