10 Aug 2018 12:45

Ex-FSB chief Kovalyov doubts NATO fighter's missile launch in Estonia was accident

MOSCOW. Aug 10 (Interfax) - Moscow has serious reasons to doubt that the live missile fired by a Spanish jet over the Baltic Sea was an accident, State Duma deputy and former Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolai Kovalyov told Interfax on Thursday.

"Was the unauthorized launch of a guided missile shortly after a group of hardline U.S. senators presented a bill tightening economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions against Russia accidental?" Kovalyov said.

"If the missile had flown toward Russia, it could have been seen as a NATO attack, with the relevant consequences," he said.

A Eurofighter jet of the Spanish Air Force attached to the Baltic air-policing mission fired a live AMRAAM missile with a range up to 100 kilometers during a training flight on Tuesday. The missile had a self-destruct mechanism, but the military did not immediately rule out that it might have hit the ground.

Estonia and some other countries are threatened by the presence of NATO forces in their territory, Kovalyov said.

He also noted that the incident coincided in time with reports about the bill proposed by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and his colleagues.

The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act pushes for the accelerated delivery of "excessive weapons to certain NATO countries to lessen their dependence on Russian military hardware," Kovalyov said.

"The frantic activity and legislative lobbying by transnational corporations selling military hardware and ammunition are understandable: the Russian defense sector is forcing them out of the global market with favorable offers of precision-guided weapons," he said.

"I shudder to think how the number of unauthorized missile launches, not just air-to-air missiles but also artillery shells and much more powerful weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, will grow if the U.S. bill is given carte blanche," Kovalyov said.