VILNIUS, November 13. /TASS/. No foreign aircraft has violated Lithuania’s air space, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said on Thursday, commenting on claims by the Dutch military that two Dutch jets had been ordered into the air from an airbase in Poland to escort a Russian transport plane out of the Blatic countries.
“The plane (it was a military transport Ilyushin-76 of the Russian Air Force - TASS) was flying over neutral waters in the zone of reaction stipulated by the North Atlantic Alliance for the Baltic countries. When any aircraft enters this zone, NATO fighters are obligatorily scrambled,” the ministry said, adding that it was a standard procedure. Nonetheless, the ministry noted that the flight was conducted without a preliminarily agreed plan, which “creates a threat to civil aviation.”
No foreign aircraft has trespassed Estonia’s air border, the General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces also said.
“Information about violation of Estonia’s air space is not true,” press secretary of the Estonian Defence Forces Arvo Joesalu said.
Earlier, the Dutch Defence Ministry said two fighter jets of the national air force had intercepted a Russian transport plane in the Baltic countries’ airspace.
According to the Defence Ministry’s statement the incident occurred on Wednesday evening, when a Russian four-engine plane IL (presumably Ilyushin-76 - TASS) en route towards Kaliningrad, strayed into the airspace of Estonia and Lithuania “without prior notice.”
Two Dutch F-16 jets were ordered into the air from the Polish airbase near the town of Malbork “to escort the Ilyushin out of the Baltic countries’ airspace,” the Defence Ministry said.
On Thursday, Russia’s Defence Ministry dismissed the Dutch Defence Ministry’s claims. “On November 12 a Russian military transport plane Ilyushin-76 was making a routine flight from Pskov to the Kaliningrad Region. The flight proceeded along the established route over the neutral area of the Baltic Sea in strict compliance with the international rules of using air space,” the Russian Defence Ministry said.
The Baltic countries have no aircraft of their own to protect their air space. Since 2004, the airspace over the Baltic countries has been safeguarded by their NATO partners who rotate every four months. Patrolling is performed from Lithuania’s Zokniai and Estonia’s Amari airbases. NATO fighters are also deployed in Poland.