Air patrol scrambles twice in a day to meet Russian planes

NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) MiG-29 jets scrambled for a second time Thursday evening to intercept a Russian Federation Armed Forces AN-26 military transport plane over Latvia’s territorial waters in the Baltic Sea, the National Armed Forces (NBS) tweeted.  

The AN-26 is a light military tactical transport aircraft also used widely in commercial aviation.

The BAP jets earlier the same day had intercepted a Russian military early warning and control aircraft A-50 and two long-range Su-27 jet fighters over the Baltic Sea.

Also Thursday, Finland’s Defense Ministry announced that Russian military aircraft had violated Finnish airspace three times during the past week. On Wednesday a military transport plane was spotted about 40 kilometers east of Helsinki over the Gulf of Finland, prompting a Finnish Hornet warplane to scramble up in interception.

Previous incursions were spotted Saturday and Monday, and Finland’s Defense Minister Carl Haglund announced that he does not believe the cluster of incidents is coincidental. In response, Finland’s air forces are increasing reconnaissance patrols while the government formulates a demand for explanation from Moscow.

"Unfortunately, we have no information to indicate that all these (violations) were accidental," Haglund told reporters in Helsinki. "As adequate explanations have not been forthcoming it would appear that a degree of intentionality was involved."

The increased activity over the Gulf of Finland is of particular significance with US President Barack Obama due to visit Tallinn, Estonia on September 3, making more Russian saber-rattling in the area a distinct possibility.

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