NATO fighter jets patrolling and protecting Baltic airspace had to respond 12 times today in reaction to Russian military aircraft flying near the Latvian border.
According to Latvian Defense Forces, three Russian transport planes An-76 and one Il-76, as well as four fighter jets MiG-31 and four attack aircraft Su-24, were detected flying near the Latvian outer sea border, above the Baltic Sea in international airspace.
Since the Ukrainian war and tension with the West, Russia's military activity in the region has intensified.
Last year, Russian Federation's military planes entered Estonian airspace without permission seven times, but the number of its planes flying in the international airspace above the Baltic Sea is in hundreds. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft traveling to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.
In December last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russian military planes of flying over the Baltic Sea in a stealth mode and threatening civilian air traffic in the region. "It is not only a question of increased flights but it's the way they're conducting the flights. They are not filing their flight plans and they are not communicating with civilian air traffic control and they are not turning on their transponders," Stoltenberg said.
In 2014, NATO's aircraft were scrambled more than 400 times to intercept Russian aircraft, up 50 percent from the 2013.
Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace have been protected by rotating NATO forces as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission ever since the three Baltic states joined NATO in March 2004.
Four NATO planes are based at Ämari Air Base in Estonia and four at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
Editor: S. Tambur