Russia announced on Thursday that it has deployed planes equipped with state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad, amid heightened tensions around this Russian enclave surrounded by NATO countries, and against the background of the conflict in Ukraine.
“As part of the implementation of strategic additional deterrence measures, three MiG-31s with Kinjal hypersonic missiles have been redeployed to the Chkalovsk airfield in the Kaliningrad region,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The three aircraft will form a combat unit “operational 24 hours a day,” the ministry added. The “Kinjal” (“dagger” in Russian) hypersonic ballistic missiles and “Zircon” cruise missiles belong to a family of new weapons developed by Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin describes these missiles as “invincible”, because they are supposed to be able to elude opposing defense systems.
Russia has often announced that it has used hypersonic missiles in real conditions as part of the large-scale offensive it has been conducting since February in Ukraine.
The deployment of these missiles in Kaliningrad, an already highly militarised territory, comes against the backdrop of a showdown between the European Union and Moscow in recent weeks over the enclave, located on the Baltic Sea.
In application of EU sanctions against Moscow decided in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, Lithuania had ceased in June to authorise the transit through its territory of certain goods destined for Kaliningrad.
After protests and threats from Moscow, the EU ended up asking Vilnius to authorise the transit by rail of Russian goods, excluding military equipment.
Wedged between Poland and Lithuania, the territory of Kaliningrad is largely supplied by rail from mainland Russia.