Russia may need to target European missile shield: Putin

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : Russia may have to retarget some of its rockets at the missile defences that the US is planning to deploy in Central Europe, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

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The president was addressing his last annual press conference at the Kremlin before he steps down after March 2 presidential election. More than 1,400 newspersons attended the marathon conference that lasted more than four hours.

“Our experts believe the system threatens our national security,” Putin said at his final annual news conference in the Kremlin. “If it appears, we will be forced to respond appropriately – we will have to retarget part of our systems against those missiles.”

He also said Russia could be forced to redirect its missiles at Ukraine if NATO bases are deployed in the country.

“We will be compelled to aim our missiles at facilities that we consider a threat to our national security, and I am putting this plainly now so that the blame for this is not shifted later,” Putin said.

However, he stressed that Russia did not intend to “retarget anything at anyone without extreme necessity.”

Ukraine said Wednesday it was prepared to pass legislation barring the deployment of NATO military bases on its soil should it join the military alliance.

A day earlier, Putin said Ukraine’s moves to join NATO were its internal affair, but went on to say that, “It is terrifying even to think that in response (to Ukraine allowing anti-missile defences to be deployed on its territory) Russia could target its nuclear missile systems against Ukraine. This is what worries us.”

Referring to a recent row with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) over its conditions for monitoring the presidential polls, Putin told reporters: “We will not allow anyone to dictate any terms to us, but we will honour every commitment. This is the fundamental principle of international law”.

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) last week refused to monitor Russia’s upcoming presidential polls.

Russia’s Central Election Commission initially invited ODIHR observers to arrive in Russia from Feb 27-28, but agreed after two weeks of negotiations to increase the observer numbers to 75, allowing the bulk of them to arrive Feb 20 but rejected ODIHR’s demand to allow 50 observers to monitor the election campaign.