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Ilves: Russia's use of force tactics has reached our region

Commenting on Friday afternoon's breaking news that Russia was transporting an Iskander missile system to Kaliningrad, outging president Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that recent incidents with planes violating Finnish and Estonian airspace in recent days show that Russia's use of force tactics had reached Estonia's region as well. At the same time, however, Ilves found that as a member of NATO, Estonia could feel relatively secure.

"It seems to me that this is yet another step in the general context of escalation that we see, at least in rhetoric," commented Ilves on Friday afternoon.

"As we can recall, last week the plutonium agreement was backed out upon; [Russia has] demanded that the US compensate all sanctions, including those it has levied itself against other countries; threats in Syria, and now we see that such an approach, to show off their strength, has reached our region as well," continued the Estonian head of state. "That the Iskanders are on the move is not the only thing. There have also been multiple violations of airspace — one in Estonia and two in Finland — and so I believe that this is just a show of power right now."

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas: Alarming information

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) told on Friday that indications of Russia’s moving Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad were alarming and demonstrated the continued challenge of Russia increasing pressure on the West.

“This week alone, Russia announced that it unilaterally suspended the plutonium disposal agreement, with demands such as the removal of all economic sanctions and compensation for the damage they have caused," said Rõivas.

"Russia's continuous aggressive actions only reaffirm the necessity for NATO's increased military presence in the Baltic states and Poland," noted the prime minister. "I can assure you that Estonia is closely following the developments in the Baltic Sea region."

Iskanders on move toward Kaliningrad

According to a government source known to ERR’s online 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 sometime 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.

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 within 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.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla, Dario Cavegn

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