Russia to repeat Baltic airspace shutdown

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Latvia's Defense Ministry reported April 13 that the Russian military will for the second time in as many weeks shut down air traffic over parts of the Baltic Sea, apparently in order to fire missiles.

''Russia's Chief Air Traffic Control Center has informed the Latvian Civil Aviation Agency that the Russian Navy has reserved airspace from April 17 to 19, and plans to perform test missile launches in airspace above the exclusive economic zone of Latvia in the Baltic Sea on April 19, from 11:00 to 23:00," the ministry said.

The Russian side has called on the Civil Aviation Agency of Latvia to close airspace to a height of 20 kilometers in a missile firing zone approximately 40 kilometers from the coastline of Latvia.

''The Ministry of Defense continues to regard this kind of training in the immediate vicinity of the territorial waters of Latvia as unjustified and provocative, and expresses its concern about Russia's ability to provide security during such training," the ministry said, adding that on April 12 a Russian Ka-29 military helicopter crashed shortly before midnight on the coast of the Kaliningrad Region over the Baltic Sea during a night flight trial. Both members of the crew were killed.

''The National Armed Forces will follow the course of this study and will continue to intensify observation of our country's borders,'' the Defense Ministry said.

Russia shut down parts of the Baltic Sea during a previous rocket shooting exercise in the exclusive economic zone of Latvia from 4 to 6 April, though no missiles were actually detected when bad weather prevented the stunt generating any suitable photo opportunities for international media. 

''Such training should be regarded as part of Russia's strategic communications and demonstration of strength to other countries in the region,'' the Latvian Defense Ministry said.


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