Russia probing Nato air and sea defences, says Poland

Polish defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak hit out at Russia. Picture: Getty
Polish defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak hit out at Russia. Picture: Getty
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POLAND’S defence minister has complained of “unprecedented” recent activity by Russia’s navy and air force in the Baltic Sea.

Tomasz Siemoniak said the majority of incidents involved Russian operations in international waters and that Sweden was the country most affected.

Mr Siemoniak added that ­Poland sees Russia’s show of military strength primarily as an attempt to test Nato, saying that “it doesn’t help to build good ­relations and trust”.

On Monday, Dutch F-16 fighter jets taking part in Nato’s Baltic Air policing mission intercepted two Russian Su-34 bombers, one incident “of many” said ­Mr ­Siemoniak.

The minister said the issue would be discussed with counterparts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which joined Nato in 2004.

Estonia’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador on Wednesday, claiming a Russian plane had violated the country’s air space.

However, the Russian ­defence ministry said that the military aircraft was making a routine flight from Moscow to the ­Russian Baltic Sea enclave of ­Kaliningrad “in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace”.

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On Sunday, Nato said Russian military activity “has been ­considerable” in recent months. It added: “Such activity can be destabilising and potentially dangerous, if international norms are not respected.”

Nato said jets from member forces had repeatedly been forced to intercept Russian planes in the Baltic, citing more than 30 different types of military aircraft in the vicinity,

On Tuesday, a Norwegian ­military spokesman claimed that one of its warplanes had been involved in a “near miss” with a Russian fighter.

Other countries have also noted an increase in submarine activity being blamed on Russia, with Britain and Sweden among those complaining.

The escalation of incidents came after Nato and EU countries condemned Russia over its continued role in the Ukraine crisis. However, the Kremlin ­yesterday complained that Kiev was reluctant to convene another round of peace talks.

Kiev’s envoy to the talks, which also bring together Moscow, pro-Russian separatists and the OSCE European watchdog, said that any fresh meeting was not viable as long as the rebels do not stop firing completely.

In September, the four ­parties agreed a ceasefire in east Ukraine that has been repeatedly violated since. More than 4,300 people have been killed in fighting since mid-April. The next round of talks was planned for this week in the Belarussian capital of Minsk.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said yesterday: “Russia will dedicate the maximum effort to having a meeting of this group organised as soon as ­possible and bringing about positive results.”

Mr Lukashevich said he was ­“puzzled” by the Kiev envoy’s comments, and that the separatists were very interested in holding talks.

The Russian spokesman said the new round of talks should focus on agreeing a demarcation line between the rival sides and an exchange of prisoners.

The West accuses Russia of supporting the rebels with arms and of sending troops to destabilise Ukraine and stall its drive towards the European Union. Russia claims it is not involved.

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