U.S. patriot missiles in Poland early April: report

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is set to host a battery of U.S. Patriot missiles and the American troops to man it from the start of April, PAP news agency said Sunday.

“The Defense Ministry expects the first stage of the stationing of a Patriot air-defense battery and a 100-man service team to get under way in the (northern) town of Morag at the turn of April,” the agency said.

The Patriots are part of a Polish-U.S. agreement signed last December to upgrade the NATO member’s air defenses, following Washington’s decision last September to scrap a Bush-era Missile Shield incorporating installations in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic.

Russia has repeatedly warned against stationing NATO missiles in former Soviet-bloc countries and said it would beef up its naval base across the border from Poland in its Baltic enclave Kaliningrad.

Friday, however, the Russian defense minister said Iskander tactical missiles would be installed in Kaliningrad only if Moscow felt directly threatened.

A week ago, Poland’s lower house of parliament sent the Polish-U.S. agreement to President Lech Kaczynski for ratification, but his signature is expected to be a formality.

Reporting and writing by Rob Strybel; Editing by Jon Boyle