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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sweden Cannot Rule Out Nuclear Arms in Kaliningrad

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Sweden, current president of the European Union, said Tuesday it could not rule out the presence of nuclear arms in Russia's Baltic enclave Kaliningrad.

Moscow dismissed U.S. claims early this year that it had deployed tactical, or short-range, nuclear arms in Kaliningrad, an area sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania and the sea.

Poland, a NATO member seeking to join the EU, has called for an international inspection of the Russian arsenal in the enclave. Lithuania, which hopes to join both organisations, has said the issue should be a matter of European concern.

"I find it hard to believe that you can rule out the possibility that nuclear weapons may exist, from time to time, in Kaliningrad," said Stefan Noreen, the Swedish government's top official on Russian affairs.

He was speaking at a news briefing on the visit to an EU summit in Sweden Mar. 23 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in January dismissed as "rubbish" the U.S. claims.

Noreen said no treaties prohibited Russia from placing tactical nuclear weapons anywhere it wanted on its territory.

The arms in Kaliningrad might be in transit from locations in Moscow's former Eastern European satellites, he said.

Noreen said he assumed the Russian denials related to a further deployment and build-up of tactical nuclear weapons in the enclave rather than the prior existence there of such arms.

"If it were the case that Russia has deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad and simultaneously denied it, it would obviously be extremely serious, no doubt about that," he said. "But it is not certain that this is the case."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is scheduled to meet Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU external relations Commissioner Chris Patten in Stockholm on Friday.

"We might want to raise this issue and other EU countries might want to do so," he said.