World War 3 fears: Finland’s defence forces have reported increased Russian activity over the Baltic
The number of Russian fighter planes streaking over the Baltic Sea have tripled since 2012, warned General Jarmo Lindberg, Finland’s Chief of Defence.
The general said on Saturday several “dark flights” are still being observed in the region, as quoted by Lannen Media.
According to the army chief, the Russian planes have avoided contact with flight control crews, turned off their tracking transponders and flown without any flight plans.
Earlier in 2016, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto urged Mr Putin to keep the tracking equipment on his fighter planes active, but his plea now appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Russian flights over the Baltic have reached record numbers last year, peaking at levels not seen since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The alarming news comes off the back of reports, Russia has been extending its military reach into northern Europe.
Earlier in August last year two Danish F-16s intercepted a Russian Tu-95 bomber, codenamed “Bear”, approaching dangerously close to Denmark’s border.
Then in October a combat group of Russian fighter planes was spotted performing flight drills over international waters.
And according to Polish flight expert Wojciech Łuczak, nothing can be done about Russia’s presence over the Baltic.
He said: “The Russians have always trained there and have never hidden the fact. They have never hidden their interest in individual targets.
“They have trained there for many years and this is not going to change and there is nothing we can do about it, because they are not entering our air space.
“Anyway, the state of things should not surprise anyone. Ever since we have found ourselves in NATO, Poland has been on the Russian list of targets.”
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However despite the increase in flight activity, General Lindberg noted the situation does not pose a direct threat to his country.
The Russians have always trained there and have never hidden the fact
He said so far Russia has not provoked any direct military action which could be seen as a declaration of war.
In fact the army chief underlined the other nations surrounding the Baltic have been more active with their military drills as well.
He reminded of additional NATO troops stationed in the Baltic nations since the Crimean incident and as part of the US’ “European Reassurance Initiative”.
Strong NATO presence in the region can also be attributed to the ?4.3billion ($6.5billion) European Defence Initiative (EDI).
But the tense situation is still “baffling” to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence which underlined the need for more NATO presence.
The Ministry said last year: “The intensity of Russian air drills is baffling. Once again we can see the necessity for NATO patrol operations.”
In February this year Moscow announced it would strengthen its military power in Kaliningrad – a Russian province on the Baltic, carved out of Poland during World War Two.
Vice admiral Aleksandr Nosatow pledged to arm the region with new warships and additional planes and helicopters.