Russia's war drills prompt air scrambles, naval recon

NATO's Baltic Air Police (BAP) and Latvia's National Armed Forces (NBS) coast guard patrols were busy already early Wednesday morning, as Russia's snap military maneuvers in the Baltic Sea region brought a flurry of air force planes and navy vessels into the area, which were either intercepted by Italy's and Spain's jet pilots, or monitored from a distance inside national Exclusive Economic Zone waters.

The Russian armed forces' activity in the Baltic was just one part of the massive widespread drills ordered by President Vladimir Putin Monday.

The NBS tweeted that three Kilo-class submarines, a sub-support ship and hydrographic survey ship were watched inside Latvia's EEZ territory in the Baltic Sea about 55 kilometers from the nation's maritime border.

Earlier the NBS reported that BAP Typhoon jets were up to intercept four Sukhoi fighters SU-27, two Antonov AN-26 and an Antonov AN-12 military transport plane over the Baltic Sea.

Speaking to Latvian Television’s morning news Panorāma, Latvia’s Ambassador to NATO Māris Riekstiņš said that the alliance doesn’t believe Russia’s snap military drills and heightened war-alert is indicative of any invasion plans. However the background of the maneuvers – aggressive rhetoric and anti-western sentiment cultivated in Russia’s public sphere, makes the defense policy community very uneasy, he said.

Riekstiņš pointed out that any state has the right to train its armed forces, but that Russia’s ‘playing with numbers’ in its to encumber any particpation by international observers goes against accepted practice. While NATO strives to provide transparent information about its exercises and expects such openness also from Russia, Moscow has not been observing such practices.

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