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Poland concerned over Russian military exercise

Russia's recent military maneuvers near the Polish border prompted a concerned Warsaw to send a letter to NATO, Poland's foreign minister said Thursday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Russia's recent military maneuvers near the Polish border prompted a concerned Warsaw to send a letter to NATO, Poland's foreign minister said Thursday.

The episode is the latest to add to tensions between a resurgent Russia and NATO-member Poland, a former Soviet satellite which reacts with anxiety to each show of strength by Moscow.

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said he asked in the letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that the alliance take the matter into consideration, but he declined to elaborate on what steps he wanted NATO to take.

"We want to have the best possible relations with Russia," Sikorski said in an interview on state radio. "But if Russia conducts such maneuvers at our borders, this disturbs us and naturally we inform NATO and demand that NATO take this into account."

About 12,500 Russian and Belarusian servicemen took part in the West-2009 exercises in late September in Russia's western Kaliningrad exclave, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, and in southern Belarus about 75 miles (125 kilometers) from the Polish border.

The exercises involved aircraft, armor and other heavy weapons.

Sikorski also praised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for his recent condemnation of the Soviet Union's crimes against its own people — some of the strongest criticism of the communist era from the Kremlin since Vladimir Putin became president a decade ago. Putin is now Russia's prime minister.

"This is new, very interesting and gives us hope," Sikorski said.