Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 12:56 UK

Russia warning over missile sites

A picture taken on May 9, 2008 shows a Russian Topol-M ICBM on Red Square during a Victory Day Parade in Moscow
Russia sees the US missile defence in central Europe as a threat

A senior Russian general has warned that Moscow could target Poland if it goes ahead with plans to host parts of a US missile defence shield.

The commander of strategic missile forces, Gen Nikolai Solovtsov, said Russia could direct nuclear missiles against strategic targets in Poland.

Poland has signed a deal with the US to build and host 10 missile interceptors.

Russian officials have repeatedly voiced anger at the move, which they see as an effort to surround Russia.

"I cannot exclude that if such decisions are taken by our top military-political leadership, the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and other such objects could be chosen as designated targets for some of our inter-continental ballistic missiles," Gen Solovtsov said.

'Dangerous game'

He said that the country was obliged to do all it could do to "prevent, under any circumstances, the devaluing of Russia's nuclear deterrent".

Two modified Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptors are launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (5 June 2008)

The US says plans to locate the interceptor missiles in a former military base near Poland's Baltic Sea coast will protect both it and much of Europe against long-range missile attacks from what it calls "rogue elements" such as Iran.

But Russia sees the Polish missile defence sites as a direct threat, and part of an effort to encircle the country.

The general's warning comes ahead of a planned visit to Poland by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In comments published on Wednesday in the Polska newspaper, Mr Lavrov said in deciding to host the US missile defence system, Poland had become "an element of a very dangerous game" destabilising the military balance between Russia and the US.

Analysts said the deal was finally agreed after months of protracted negotiations following Russia's military intervention in neighbouring Georgia, which alarmed many former Soviet bloc countries.

As part of the deal, the US agreed to station a battery of Patriot missiles and US servicemen on Polish soil to bolster the country's short and medium-range air defences.

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