Russia Denies New Facility Is for Spying

Russia Denies New Facility Is for Spying

Published: October 19, 2011 (Issue # 1679)

BELGRADE, Serbia — Russia has denied news reports that the emergency relief center it is creating in Serbia will be used to spy on neighboring Romania, where U.S. anti-ballistic missile interceptors are likely to be installed.

Those reports began two years ago when President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Serbia and Russia had agreed to create the joint “emergency response center” at the airport in Nis, central Serbia.

But during a ceremony opening it on Monday, Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Emergency Situations minister, said the speculation that Russia is creating a military installation in Serbia is “a pure fabrication.”

Shoigu said the center will house emergency relief experts and their equipment, and fight major forest fires, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters in the Balkans.

Romania has agreed to install anti-ballistic missile interceptors as part of the revamped U.S. missile shield to replace a Bush-era plan for interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic.

“I’m inviting all those [countries] that suspect that this will become a Russian base to join our de-mining teams,” Shoigu said. “They have planted the explosive devices in the first place,” he added, referring to the U.S.-led airstrikes against Serbia in 1999 that left the Nis region infested with cluster bombs.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said it would be Serbia’s sovereign right to allow foreign military installations on its territory but that the center will only serve a humanitarian purpose.

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