Estonia Says Russian Planes Violate Its Airspace, Again

Sukhoi Su-35 at the 50th Paris Air Show.
A Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighter performs its demonstration flight during the 50th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

HELSINKI  — NATO member Estonia said Wednesday that two Russian fighter jets have violated its airspace, in what it claimed was the fourth such incident this year.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighters entered the Baltic country's airspace in the vicinity of Hiiumaa, a Baltic Sea island belonging to Estonia, without permission and spent less than one minute there Tuesday morning, Estonia’s military said in a statement.

It added that the transponders on the Russian planes weren’t switched on, they hadn’t filed a flight plan and there was no two-way radio communication with the Estonian air traffic service.

The Russian Embassy's charge d’affaires was summoned to the Estonian Foreign Ministry and handed a note on the incident.

In a quick response, Moscow denied the air intrusion and said the planes had performed a routine flight over the international waters of the Baltic Sea on Tuesday.

“The flight took place strictly in accordance with the set route. During the flight, the planes did not deviate from their route, which is confirmed by air situation data,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, as quoted by the news agency Interfax.

European Union member Estonia has recorded numerous air violations by Russian aircraft — civilian and military — in past years and made repeated protests to Moscow.

Relations between Estonia and neighboring Russia have remained icy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The two countries have yet to ratify a border treaty nearly 30 years after Estonia, a former Soviet republic, regained its independence in 1991.

Estonia’s Baltic neighbor Lithuania said separately on Wednesday that two Russian Su-24 fighter jets allegedly violated its airspace while flying over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday morning.

According to Lithuanian officials, the Russian planes flew one kilometer (0.6 miles) into Lithuanian airspace, where they spent about one minute.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas linked the alleged Russian air intrusion with the ongoing U.S Navy-led Baltops naval exercise in the Baltic Sea with participation from 18 NATO members and other nations.

“With the Baltops exercise ongoing in that region, I imagine that (the Russians) are interested in that (Baltic Sea) area,” Anusauskas told the region’s main news agency Baltic News Service.

The agency said Lithuania’s foreign ministry handed a note of protest to a representative of the Russian Embassy.

On Monday, Denmark said it had summoned Russia’s ambassador and complained after Russian military planes allegedly twice violated the Scandinavian country’s airspace over the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm last week.

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