British and Russian aircraft played a game of cat-and-mouse in the skies over the Baltic Sea this week, according to a statement from the UK Ministry of Defense on June 9. RAF Typhoon fighter jets intercepted two Russian military aircraft on June 8 while they approached Baltic airspace without having shared a flight plan as is customary. The RAF jets flew out of the Amari air base in Estonia to intercept an II-20M “Coot” surveillance aircraft and, shortly thereafter, were sent to intercept a Russian An-26 “Curl” transport plane. The latter had been flying north out of Kaliningrad, the UK defense ministry said.
“The interception of Russian military aircraft by our RAF Typhoon fighters underlines our commitment to NATO and the security of the Baltic region,” stated Michael Fallon, the UK secretary of state for defense. “RAF air and ground crew are doing vital work to defend the skies above and around the Baltic States and I look forward to seeing that work first hand in the near future.”
Estonian and UK air defenses cooperated in scrambling the jets to meet the Russian aircraft. Similarly on May 1, four RAF Typhoon aircraft were scrambled from Amari to patrol Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in concert with Norwegian air forces to meet Russian planes.
On June 8, two unidentified aircraft flew over a NATO maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea. Dozens of NATO ships and aircraft were involved in the practice. So far, there has been no clarification coming out of NATO or the British Ministry of Defence as to whether or not these were the same jets that that had been intercepted by British Typhoons.
The scrambling of NATO jets occurred whilst world leaders were meeting for the G-7 summit in Germany. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met to discuss the unfolding situation in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia for supporting pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine. On the same day, a Ukrainian arms depot was threatened by a mysterious fire at a nearby by petroleum facility.
Obama said on June 8 that Russian President Vladimir Putin must soon make a decision. “Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?" Western Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and petroleum supplies. Russia has been banned from the annual summit meeting that until its 2014 invasion of Ukrainian Crimea had been known as the G-8 Summit.
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