Malaysia Air crash proves Russian threat: Defense Minister

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Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis said Friday that the loss of a Malaysia Air plane over a disputed territory of Ukraine on Thursday proved Russia was destabilising the region and that Latvia should check its own air defense capability.

"The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft being hit is tragic proof of Latvia's expressed view that Russian policy implemented in Ukraine poses a real threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” Vejonis said in a statement.

“The uncontrolled distribution of arms, and especially of hi-tech arms – poses a threat to Europe and the world,” he added.

Vejonis recently returned from a trip to the United States were he attempted to drum up support for permanent Nato bases in the Baltic states. Events in Ukraine had underlined the need for such bases, he said.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Nato has tripled the number of aircraft it has patrolling Baltic airspace while US troops have arrived in all three Baltic states on medium-term training exercises.

Nevertheless, regular Russian flyovers of airpace close to Baltic borders have continued with reports from Sweden suggesting they pose an increasing threat to civil aviation in the area as they do not log flight plans or respond to identification requests.

Vejonis said he would raise the matter of Latvia's current air defense capability at a cabinet meeting on July 22.

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