Russian troops tested October 27 a new type of tactical Tochka missile at a test range situated near the Lithuanian border in the Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad region. The missile, reportedly without a warhead, was launched on an almost vertical trajectory in order to avoid its falling into Lithuanian territory. The region’s political leaders and representatives of president Boris Yeltsin’s administration in the region were invited to witness the test. Baltic reports cited Russian sources as saying that the test was meant to demonstrate Russia’s power and its displeasure with the Baltic states’ wish to join NATO. In an initial reaction, Lithuanian Foreign Ministry political director Petras Zapolskas termed the test launch "ambiguous and disturbing" and pointed out that Russia failed to provide advance notification, as required by international practice in such cases. (7)
The invitation to political figures to witness the launch also suggests a desire to lend the event a political profile. Tochka missiles, long in the Soviet land forces’ inventory, have ranges of a few hundred kilometers, and their more recent types are reported to have a relatively high degree of accuracy. The test launch of what could be an upgraded version may, just like recent verbal threats from Moscow opposing the Baltic states’ quest for NATO membership, have the opposite effect and increase their resolve to seek admission to the alliance.
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