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MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Lithuania’s claims about intentional violation of its air borders by Russian Il-76 planes during the Zapad-2017 (West-2017) drills are politicized and have nothing to do with the real state of things, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
According to the ministry, the incident took place on September 16 when the Russian planes deviated from their route towards Lithuania’s air border. However, the ministry stressed, it was done with the permission of an air traffic controller in Vilnius to fly past a storm front. No claims to the Russian crews came from the Lithuanian air traffic control authorities, the ministry noted.
"We would like to stress that in the following two days the Russian defense ministry deceived no claims from the Lithuanian side via the military diplomatic channels," the ministry said. "We consider the Lithuanian side’s claims about alleged intentional violation of its airspace by Russian planes during the Zapad-2017 drills as politicized and having nothing to do with reality."
The ministry stressed that Russian Il-76 warplanes flying over the Baltic Sea deviated towards Lithuania’s air borders with the permission of an air traffic controller in Vilnius to fly past a storm front.
While flying over the Baltic Sea’s neutral waters on September 16, two Russian Il-76 detected a storm front about 20 kilometers wide and some 60 kilometers long, which "posed a threat to the planes’ and the crews’ safety."
"I order to avoid the hazard and in strict conformity with the norms of international aviation law, the leading crew of the Russian plane made a voice inquiry to the zonal airspace control center in Vilnius to ask permission for necessary deviation from the flight route towards Lithuania’s air border to fly past the storm front," the ministry said.
"As soon as a relevant permission was received from the Lithuanian side, the planes deviated from the route to fly past the hazardous area and returned to the initial route," the ministry said.