NATO Intercept Russian Planes Over Baltic for Third Day

NATO dispatched fighter jets to intercept a Russian IL-20 military surveillance plane over the Baltic Sea today, the third such incident this week.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s CF-18 Hornet fighters, Canadian jets based in Lithuania, confronted the Russian aircraft over international waters near Latvia’s border, the Latvian army said on Twitter. A Russian navy tanker ship was also observed 11.6 nautical miles from Latvian waters yesterday, the army said in a separate Twitter post, the vessel’s second sighting near the maritime border in the past three days.

The encounters have added to growing strains between Russia and the military alliance over the conflict in Ukraine. Russian warplanes and ships have increased their activity across the Baltic Sea from St. Petersburg to the Kaliningrad exclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

The alliance pledged in September to bolster the defenses of frontline states in eastern Europe in response to what it said was Russian involvement in Ukraine. NATO interceptions of Russian military planes over the Baltic more than doubled in 2014 from last year, rising to 112 before yesterday, the news service BNS reported, citing Lithuania’s Defense Ministry. That compares with 47 such incidents in 2013 and 44 in 2012.

NATO jets also intercepted a Russian IL-20 yesterday and a Su-27 fighter plane on Nov. 17 after four similar incidents last week.

President Vladimir Putin said in a TV interview with German broadcaster ARD on Nov. 16 that Russian planes and ships don’t violate European borders and that military exercises take place “exclusively in international waters and over international airspace.”

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