RIGA - The Defense Ministry has not ruled out that the recent instances of Russian naval ships being observed near Latvian waters is an attempt by Russia to test Latvia’s and NATO’s reaction capabilities, said Defense Ministry spokesman Kaspars Galkins to LETA.
He explained that Russia has been regularly attempting to show its military “might” over the past several months with flights of military aircraft near Latvian borders, and obviously wants to show its naval might as well.
The Defense Ministry spokesman added that the Latvian Navy has reacted to every instance, and will continue to do so.
Galkins reiterated that NATO has not just increased its air presence in the Baltics this year, but also its naval presence. Currently, NATO naval ships are not in Latvia, but are on duty in waters in other Baltic areas.
On July 22, near the coastal city of Liepaja, a Russian naval ship was observed near Latvian territorial waters, the National Armed Forces reported. The Russian naval ship ‘Syzran’ was observed approximately 6.5 nautical miles from Latvian territorial waters. The ship had not entered Latvian waters, thus the Latvian Navy only observed the ship’s movements.
Similar incidents took place on June 21 and June 24, when the Russian naval ships ‘Soobrazitelny’ and ‘Boikiy’ were observed near Latvian waters.
Russian agitation has picked up in the skies as well. After several weeks of relative calm, NATO fighters patrolling Baltic skies took to the skies on Aug. 1 after observing unidentified aircraft on radar systems.
The NATO fighters had visual contact with the aircraft and determined that they were Russian Su-24 fighters, and an An-24 military aircraft.
The last time Russian military aircraft were observed near Latvian territorial waters was on July 19.
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 or planes on an attack mission against the Baltics.
Currently, there are 12 NATO fighter jets patrolling Latvian and Baltic skies - four from Poland, four from Great Britain and four from Denmark.