Russia flatly denied Wednesday a US newspaper report that it was deploying tactical nuclear weapons in its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea in a bid to step up military pressure on NATO, news agencies reported.
"This information absolutely does not correspond with reality," Russian defense ministry sources told Interfax, adding that none of Russia's nuclear weapons had been moved from their permanent sites.
Citing "US intelligence officials," the Washington Times newspaper reported the movement last June of new battlefield nuclear arms to Kaliningrad, a Baltic port located in a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania.
"This report can only be a political provocation," said Anatoly Lobsky, a spokesman for Russia's Baltic Fleet.
The Baltic Sea had been decreed a nuclear-free zone, and Russia faithfully respected its international obligations, he added.
The Pentagon had declined to comment on the reports, the Washington Times said.
It cited US intelligence officials, who claimed the weapons movement was "a sign Moscow is following through on threats to respond to NATO expansion with the forward deployment of nuclear weapons."
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis told journalists in Vilnius "similar reports have been appearing several times a year but after raising public concern they after some time are usually forgotten."
"To date none of these reports have been confirmed, so I would like not to comment on the recent reports too," he added.
Russia and the United States announced in 1991 and 1992 a non-binding agreement to reduce arsenals of tactical nuclear weapons.
The Soviet and Russian governments announced in 1991 and 1992, respectively, that all tactical nuclear weapons were removed from Eastern Europe to more secure areas in Russia. It was not clear whether that included nuclear weapons based in Kaliningrad.
Cuts in US and Russian tactical nuclear arsenals are due to be discussed in new US-Russian negotiations on a START III arms treaty.
Some analysts believe that the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO in 1999 has provoked Moscow, which is now responding with this deployment, the Washington Times said -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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