Russia deployed S-400 anti-aircraft missiles to Serbia
Russia has deployed its S-400 surface-to-air missile system to Serbia for exercises with the Balkan nation’s military to bring the advanced system that has caused friction between the US and Turkey closer to the borders of NATO allies.
Russian air transport flew the S-400 Triumf missiles along with a battery of Pantsir-S medium-range anti-aircraft missiles to a military airfield near Belgrade, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Both systems are to take part in a joint Russian-Serbian air defense exercise called Slavic Shield, the ministry said. This was the first time the S-400 unit took part in a military exercise abroad, the statement said.
“We have ordered the Pantsir-S,” said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during a ceremony on Thursday. “I’ll see it on Saturday, while tomorrow I’ll see the S-400 at the Slavic Shield exercise.”
The Serbian Defense Ministry said the aim of the exercises started on Wednesday is to collectively protect the ground forces from enemy air strikes.
The S-400 rose to prominence earlier this year when NATO member Turkey bought Russian missiles rather than opting for the US-made Patriot system that Allied countries had sent to southern Turkey to try before war broke out to defend in Syria.
In response, Washington pushed Turkey off its participation in the F-35 stealth fighter project, saying the S-400 could be used by Russia to gather information on how to defeat the jet. Turkey had ordered 100 F-35s.
The S-400’s Triumf missiles have a range of up to 250 miles.
The Pantsir S-1 – designated by NATO as the SA-22 Greyhound – is a short to medium-sized self-propelled anti-aircraft gun and missile system that is widely used in Syria and used to protect the Russian armed forces. Serbian air defense forces were sent to Russia last month to train on both systems before the exercises.
Although Serbia is striving to join the European Union, Belgrade has cultivated ever closer political, economic and military ties with Moscow.
These have raised concerns in western capitals that Moscow is trying to turn Serbia – which borders five NATO countries – into its bridgehead in the Balkans, a region that has been around since the wars that led to the collapse of the former Yugoslav Federation in the 1990s Years marked, was relatively quiet.