STILLS: Finland Flags Two Airspace Violations by Russian SU-27s

Fri Oct 7, 2016 14:43:37

Finland said on Friday (October 7) it took seriously two suspected violations of its airspace by Russian aircraft in which it scrambled jets to identify SU-27 fighters over the Baltic Sea.

The incidents on Thursday (October 6) took place as Finland and the United States prepared to sign an agreement of closer defense collaboration, and followed a string of similar breaches which Finland has accused Russia of since the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014.

Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto told Reuters by phone the incidents were taken seriously and that having two suspected violations on the same day was exceptional.

Finland was investigating the incidents, he added. Helsinki said two different SU-27s planes were involved in separate incidents on Thursday.

Commenting on the first case, Moscow denied its aircraft was involved in any violation.

In April, two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a US guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea.

Concerned about Russian military activity in the region, militarily non-aligned Finland - which has a land border of more than 1,300 km (812 miles) with Russia - has tightened defense cooperation with Sweden and fostered closer ties with NATO.

US Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work was due in Helsinki on Friday to sign a cooperation deal with Finland that would not contain obligations for military assistance but would cover areas like military training and information sharing.

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