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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Touts Air Defense Plan

APPutin touring the Lekhtusi radar site with military officials Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that a new radar station near St. Petersburg was the first stage in a large-scale air defense program.

"This is the first step in a large-scale program in this sphere that will be carried out to 2015," Putin said during a visit to St. Petersburg, Itar-Tass reported. He did not elaborate.

It was the first public announcement of such a program. Russia has said it will beef up its air defense system in response to a U.S. initiative to station elements of a missile shield near Russia's borders.

The Voronezh-type radar station in the village of Lekhtusi, about 50 kilometers north of St. Petersburg, has been operational since December and is capable of monitoring the territory between the North Pole and Africa.

"This is what I call modern development of the armed forces. A lot more effective, a lot more reliable," Putin said.

The United States wants to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, saying it needs the installations as protection against missile attacks from "rogue states" like Iran and North Korea.

Russia has reacted furiously, saying the missile shield is against Russia, not rogue states.

Putin has proposed that Washington drop the idea, offering a Voronezh-type station under construction in southern Russia and a center in Moscow to share data on attacks.