Mihkelson: Estonia, Russia Must Resolve Vaindloo Airspace Problem (3)
Marko Mihkelson, head of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Russia's intrusion into Estonian airspace last Thursday, near Vaindloo island, off the northern coast of the nation, was more a misunderstanding than a provocation.
“The Vaindloo problem is not that is a preferred destination for airspace violations, but the area is a relic of the Soviet times, where Russian air traffic control overlaps with Estonian airspace,” Mihkelson told uudised.err.ee on Monday.
Commenting on the possibility that last week's act was a provocation connected to the run-up of Russia's biggest military exercises, which are set to take place in northwestern Russia in September, Mihkelson said that a clear example of provocation was when Russian fighter jets flew over Hiiumaa and Tallinn in 2003, shortly before Estonia joined NATO, but the Vaindloo incident warrants an international solution.
Mihkelson said Estonia should take the initiative to open negotiations in shifting the air traffic control area, and it would be sensible to tackle the issue during the current border treaty talks.
He said both sides are currently examining the proposed treaty and so far no major differences have emerged, adding that he would not be surprised if the treaty is signed in September or October.
On Thursday, an An-26 Russian military aircraft entered Estonia's airspace without permission. The violation occurred north of Rakvere and lasted less than a minute. Russia denied the allegation.
In the last seven years, such incidents have taken place six times.
Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Delfi on Monday that airspace violations are a systemic part of Russia's defense policy, adding that the eastern neighbor is increasing its military presence in the region.