Moscow: Amid growing tension with NATO over the deployment of US anti-missile defence (AMD) in Europe, Russia's newly raised 'Aerospace Defence Forces' on Thursday took charge of obviating any strategic threats close to its western borders.

The new force has been created by the merger of several Soviet-era separate forces.

At the end of the Duma campaign ahead of Sunday's general elections President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday underscored that the tough steps announced by him in response to US AMD last month were not electoral rhetoric.

"The statement has no tactical or pre-election implications, as some opposition members put it. It was a thoroughly considered decision, and, to put it bluntly, I was in fact forced to make it."

In his last week's statement, Medvedev had announced a set of steps including the deployment of "advanced offensive weapon systems" to its European borders in response to US planned missile shield and tightening the protection of country's nuclear assets threatened by the European AMD.

The three thousand strong Aerospace Defence Force has integrated separate air and missile defence systems and the early missile warning and space control systems, under a 'lean but mean' unified command.

It is also responsible for launches of military spacecraft from the Plesetsk space center in Arkhangelsk region in northern Russia.

According to the government-run RIA Novosti the new force will have several advanced anti-missile radars, including the Voronezh-DM class radar, launched by President Medvedev on Tuesday in Kalinigrad with a range of 6,000 kilometers and capable of simultaneously tracking about 500 targets with high accuracy.

Two similar radars are ready to go on combat duty in Lekhtusi, outside St. Petersburg, and in Armavir in southern Russia, while the construction of the fourth Voronezh class radar will be completed in 2012 near the city of Irkutsk in Siberia to close all gaps in radar coverage on Russia's borders.

(Agencies)