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Defense chief notes Russia’s western borders heating up as NATO activity surges

On June 21, NATO’s F-16 fighter jet attempted to approach a plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea

KALININGRAD, June 21. /TASS/. Situation near Russia’s western borders tends to worsen due to the growing military activity of the North Atlantic Alliance in Eastern Europe, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO’s F-16 fighter jet attempted to approach a plane carrying Shoigu over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. A TASS correspondent, who was onboard the plane, said Russia-s Su-27 fighter aircraft drove the F-16 away.

"The situation near our western borders tends to deteriorate. This is linked to the increasing military activity of NATO countries in Eastern Europe. The North Atlantic Alliance is stepping up its presence in the Baltic states. The infrastructure of their sea ports, airfields and other military facilities is being advanced," Shoigu told a meeting of the defense ministry.

Shoigu noted that NATO is completing the creation of four multinational battalions near Russia’s borders. "In the Baltic countries and Poland, the formation of four battalion-size tactical groups is nearing completion, with the total of 5,000 troops with weapons and military equipment," he said.

The US continues deploying the European elements of missile shield, he noted. "By 2018, in addition to the missile shield base in Romania there are plans to launch a similar facility in Poland," Shoigu said.

"The intensity of the alliance’s operational and combat training is increasing. The alliance’s BALTOPS 2017 and Saber Strike 2017 large-scale exercises are currently underway near the Russian borders. Taking part in them are more than 10,000 military servicemen, more than 70 warships and auxiliary vessels and about 70 aircraft, including B-52 strategic bombers," Shoigu said.

"All these developments demonstrate the Western partners’ blatant reluctance to abandon their anti-Russian policy," he emphasized.

According to him, "apart from using political, information and economic pressure, some countries also seek to employ military force in order to achieve their political goals."

"The steps that our western counterparts take lead to the destruction of the global security system, increase mutual distrust and force us to take retaliatory measures, particularly in the western regions of the country," Shoigu said. "We have been improving the army’s operational strength and the military basing system," the Russian defense minister added.

NATO decided at its summit in Warsaw in July 2016 to deploy four multinational battalions to the Baltic countries and Poland. Each of these battlegroups consists of around 1,000 people. Canada is leading the battlegroup in Latvia, while Germany and the United Kingdom will lead similar forces in Lithuania and Estonia, respectively. The United States commands a NATO battlegroup in Poland. The missile defense base in Romania was launched in May 2016.