Jets intercept more Russian spy and transport planes

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NATO’s Baltic Air Police (BAP) patrol jets have scrambled twice to the skies above the Baltic sea since yesterday to intercept a Russian armed forces surveillance aircraft Ilyushin Il-20 near Latvia's territorial waters, the National Armed Forces (NBS) informed LETA Friday. Later the same night, the NBS tweeted an additional scramble by BAP pilots to the airspace over neutral waters to observe a pair of Antonov transport planes, an AN-12 and an AN-26.

This brings the count of Russian military units spotted near Latvian waters so far this year to twenty-three incidents. Russian military units have been very active near Latvia's border and in the country's exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea for the past year, in some cases apparently operating in squadrons of multiple sea- and aircraft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered Russia's Northern Fleet to full alert in a snap military exercise. The exercise involves 38,000 soldiers, 3,360 military equipment units, 41 ships, 15 submarines, 110 airplanes and helicopters, reported Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis (Greens/Farmers) said on Monday that NATO has the security of Latvia, the Baltic States, and other Eastern European countries high on its agenda.

"The Latvian armed forces are doing an intensive job to improve their early warning and rapid response abilities [..]. I repeat - the aim of our defense development is prevention. Latvian, Baltic, and NATO defense capacity must be strong and obvious enough in order to eliminate the slightest illusion that an aggressor could possibly succeed," the minister said.

Russian military aircraft and ships were detected over 250 times near Latvia's border last year, including 50 cases of Russian warships approaching Latvia's borders.

Russian military aircraft usually operate with their automatic transponders turned off and without any flight plan, declining to respond to civilian air traffic control requests for identification and thus posing a threat to civilian air traffic.


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