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Russian planes encroach upon Latvian airspace

Apr 18, 2014
From wire reports, RIGA

Canada is deploying six CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe as part of NATO's response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday, April 17, reports AFP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, instigating the troubles there, warned that Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, and threatening outright Russian intervention.

NATO has increased air sorties and additional navy ships in the region as Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces face off.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - which border Russia and have sizeable ethnic Russian populations - have all sought reassurances, as have Ukraine's neighbors Poland and Romania.

Harper condemned what he called "Russia's illegal occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military provocation."

The Canadian leader said he is concerned about "expansionism on the part of Russia under the presidency of Mr. Putin.''

"I believe this to be a long-term serious threat to global peace and security, and we're always prepared to work with our allies in NATO and elsewhere to try and bring whatever stability we can to the situation,'' he said.

The United States has also sent fighter aircraft to the Baltic States and Poland, to bolster confidence in member countries once ruled by Moscow.

It was on Thursday that U.S. fighter jets, currently patrolling Baltic skies as part of the NATO patrol mission, observed two Russian military aircraft near Latvian territorial waters, reports LETA.

''The unidentified aircraft were flying over neutral waters in the Baltic Sea very near to Latvian territorial waters. NATO F-15 fighters immediately reacted and took to the skies to establish visual contact,'' the National Armed Forces (NAF) said.

The NATO fighters determined that the unidentified aircraft were two Russian An-26 military transport aircraft.

Russian military planes have been observed flying near Latvian territory waters quite often in recent months. Flights above neutral waters are not a violation, however, the Russian planes did not observe several international standards and NATO fighter jets had to take off to establish a visual contact and confirm they were not, for example, terrorist-kidnapped planes.

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