Russian Planes Spark NATO Scramble in Baltic

By FOCUS Information Agency (November 7. 2011)

NATO jets were scrambled Monday as four Russian air force planes flew near the territory of the Baltic states, Lithuania’s defense ministry said, adding that the unusual number was a cause for concern, AFP reported.
Defense ministry spokeswoman Ugne Naujokaityte said that four Danish F-16 fighters, which currently police the skies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, took to the air twice to escort the Russian planes.
Two AN26 transport aircraft and a TU134 bomber flew in succession from Russia’s Baltic territory of Kaliningrad to Russia itself, and an IL20 intelligence-gathering plane flew in the opposite direction.
While their path over neutral waters did not ultimately encroach on the Baltic states’ airspace, the flurry of flights was unusual in an area that normally sees only a few Russian aircraft transit every few weeks.
“The intensity of these Russian planes’ flights raises concern. It proves once again the importance and necessity of the NATO air police mission in Baltic states,” Naujokaityte said.
The Baltic states broke away from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 after five decades of communist rule and joined NATO in 2004.