Czechs, Poles reject permanent Russian presence at US sites

Other News Materials 7 April 2008 20:28 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Czech and Polish officials reject Russian President Vladimir Putin's suggestion of a permanent Russian presence at planned US missile-defence sites in Eastern Europe, reports said Monday.

"We are willing to negotiate about Russian inspections, but definitely not in a form of a permanent presence of Russian soldiers in the Czech Republic," Hospodarske Noviny daily cited Czech Vice Premier Alexandr Vondra as saying.

Czechs, who were occupied by Soviet troops for nearly 23 years during the Cold War, are sensitive to any Russian presence on their soil.

Polish diplomat Witold Waszczykowski, who is due to hold missile-defence talks in Moscow Tuesday, said Poland is ready to discuss Russian access to the US base but ruled out allowing Moscow a permanent presence in Poland.

"We had that here already. Such a solution will not be repeated," PAP news agency cited him as saying.

At Sunday's US-Russian summit with President George W Bush, Putin continued to oppose US plans to place a radar and 10 interceptor missiles as a missile shield in the former Soviet satellites.

But he said Russia could participate in "a global missile defence with equal democratic-style access to managing such system."

If that fails, Putin told reporters, "then we will insist that the system ... (functions) with the help of experts that should be present at those sites on a permanent basis."

The measures aimed at mitigating Russian concerns are yet to be shaped, Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

"They're going to have to be done in a way that are reciprocal, that are acceptable to the Czechs and Poles," he said.

Czech and Polish officials have said they would give a nod to occasional and reciprocal inspections by Russian monitors.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said earlier that a Czech-Russian treaty would have to precede any Russian inspections on Czech soil. Any deployment of foreign troops on Czech soil must be approved by parliament.

"In any case the Russians must first of all negotiate with us," Pravo daily quoted him as saying.