By Bryan Bradley
April 11, 2014
Lithuania dispatched a warship and a helicopter to the Baltic Sea after the government said a Russian military vessel disturbed civilian shipping in the area.
The Defense Ministry in Vilnius said it was seeking to secure the country’s economic zone after the Russian vessel yesterday ordered civilian ships to change course because of shooting exercises. The disturbance ended before the minehunter Suduvis arrived and made radio contact, Vaidotas Linkus, a spokesman for the ministry in Vilnius, said today by telephone.
Lithuania, an ex-Soviet NATO member that borders Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, is beefing up its defenses because of the escalating conflict over Ukraine. The U.S.-led military alliance has doubled its commitment of fighters jets based in the country. While Russian ships have permission to enter the Lithuanian zone, they aren’t allowed to divert other ships, Linkus said.
“We hope Russia will in the future cooperate more actively and inform Lithuania about its actions during military exercises to avoid unnecessary speculations,” Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said today, the BNS news service reported.
Butkevicius linked the naval incident to drills in Kaliningrad, saying they weren’t a threat to the Baltic country, according to BNS.
Separately, Lithuania’s Defense Ministry said on its website it was increasing an order to buy new radar equipment from an unidentified NATO member state because of “the changed security situation.”
Russia’s Baltic Fleet held a drill in an area secured by 11 warships, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on its website today. All “norms and security requirements” were respected during the exercise, which included the test firing of missiles, according to the statement.