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NATO fails to inform Russia’s top brass on accidental missile launch over Estonia

NATO has not informed Russia on the incident with the unauthorized launch of an air-to-air missile by a Spanish fighter jet over Estonia

BRUSSELS, August 8. /TASS/. NATO has not informed Russia’s top brass via the existing military channels on the incident with the unauthorized launch of an air-to-air missile by a Spanish fighter jet over Estonia, an official in the alliance’s military structure told TASS on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

"At the present moment, we cannot confirm the existence of any contacts between the NATO Operations Command and the Russian military on this incident. However, after saying this, I will add that many civilian and military organizations play their role in ensuring international air security. We cannot say anything more on this incident as long as the investigation is going on," the official said.

Regret and assistance

NATO Acting Spokesperson Piers Cazalet told TASS earlier on Wednesday that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had expressed his regret and readiness to provide assistance to Estonia in probing the incident.

The acting spokesperson confirmed that according to NATO’s official information, "On 7 August 2018, a Spanish Eurofighter on NATO Baltic Air Policing duty accidentally fired an air-to-air missile in Estonian airspace. No damage has been reported."

Since 2004, when the Baltic states were admitted to NATO, the alliance has launched the Baltic Air Policing Mission and intends to continue patrol flights in that region, the acting spokesperson said.

The missile could have reached Russia

According to the Estonian Defense Forces, the incident with the accidental launch of an AMRAAM-type air-to-air missile occurred at 3:44 p.m. Moscow time on August 7 in a practice area over the community of Pangodi.

As the Estonian Defense Forces said, the missile’s self-destruct mode was activated to destroy it while it was still in the air. However, despite this, the missile could have still fallen on the ground 40 km north of Tartu.

According to Estonian Air Force Commander Riivo Valge, the missile’s flight radius is 100 km. Upon its deviation towards the eastern border, the missile could have theoretically fallen "on the other side of Lake Chudskoye on the territory of the Russian Federation," he said.

The Latvian national armed forces stated on Wednesday they had no grounds to believe that the missile could have fallen on the territory of Latvia.

The missile is 3.7 meters long and has a diameter of 18 cm. It is armed with a warhead.

The incident is being probed by the Estonian Air Force, the Spanish Air Force and NATO experts. Three light Robinson helicopters of the Estonian Air Force are combing the area to find the missile and an An-2 plane is ready to join the operation. Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas has warned the country’s population against attempts to find the missile independently.