Moscow (AFP) – A NATO military plane on Wednesday approached the plane of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu above the Baltic Sea, Russian news agencies reported, the third such encounter in three days.
A NATO fighter jet tried to approach Shoigu’s plane but a Russian escort plane intervened to defend it, Interfax news agency reported, citing journalists accompanying the minister.
The escort plane, a Sukhoi SU-27, demonstrated it was armed by rocking its wings, after which the NATO plane flew off, Interfax reported.
Russian state television aired defence ministry footage of the incident, reporting that it took place over neutral waters.
NATO and national air forces last week tracked “an unusually large number of Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea.”
“As is standard practice whenever unknown aircraft approach NATO airspace, NATO and national air forces took to the sky to monitor the flights,” a NATO spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP.
NATO said the crew’s actions to determine the identity of the plane were “routine”, including “maintaining a safe distance at all times” before breaking away.
Shoigu was on his way to Kaliningrad, a highly militarised Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, to take part in a meeting with defence officials there.
At the meeting, he warned that “the situation near Russia’s western borders is tending to get worse,” the ministry said on its website.
“This is tied with the upsurge of military activity of NATO countries in Eastern Europe,” Shoigu added.
The meeting came after NATO held military exercises at the weekend in Poland on the Lithuanian border close to Kaliningrad.
NATO is deploying four international battalions in Poland and each of the former Soviet Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Moscow sees the NATO build-up in the region as demonstrating a desire to contain Russia.
On Wednesday, Sweden summoned Russia’s ambassador after a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet flew unusually close to a Swedish reconnaissance…