Russia deploys hypersonic missiles in its Baltic exclave

MOSCOW — Russia’s military said Thursday it had deployed warplanes armed with state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to the country’s Kaliningrad region, a move that comes amid rising tensions with the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Russia’s defense ministry said three MiG-31 fighter jets with hypersonic Kinzhal missiles had arrived at the Chkalovsk airbase in the Baltic Sea enclave as part of “additional strategic deterrence measures”.

The ministry said fighter jets would be put on round-the-clock alert.

A video released by the Ministry of Defense shows the fighter jets arriving at the base but not carrying the missiles, which were apparently delivered separately.

The deployment of Kinzhal missiles in Kaliningrad, as Russia’s campaign in Ukraine approaches its sixth month, appears to be intended to demonstrate the Russian military’s ability to threaten NATO assets. The region borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

Read more: Where is Russia’s war in Ukraine and what might happen next

Moscow has sharply criticized Western arms supplies to Ukraine, accusing the US and its allies of stoking the conflict.

The Russian military says the Kinzhal has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound, making it difficult to intercept. Russia has used the weapon to strike several targets in Ukraine.

Kaliningrad’s location puts it at the forefront of Moscow’s efforts to counter what it describes as hostile NATO policies. The Kremlin has methodically strengthened its military forces there, arming them with state-of-the-art weapons, including Iskander precision-guided missiles and an array of air defense systems.

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