At the beginning of this week Moscow asked experts of NATO and the Baltic nations to join in meetings regarding aviation safety in the Baltic Sea region, but Estonia has opted against having separate defense-related talks with Russia, Prime Minister Taavi Roivas announced today.
"I have of course been informed about the letter from the Russian Defense Ministry and the proposal it contained," Roivas remarked at the government's press conference. He noted that security and safety of the Baltic Sea have been key issues for Estonia for years. "And if Russia's wish to increase safety is sincere, I have a simple recommendation: find the aircraft's button for transponder and switch it on," he added.
According to the prime minister, Estonia is declining to privately discuss defense co-operation with Russia because all allies need to be involved in this matter. Additionally, defense co-operation cannot be adequately covered as Russia’s hostility in Ukraine is ongoing. Roivas stressed that it will be impossible to reestablish normal relations with Russia until the country has taken measures to withdraw from Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced yesterday that Moscow was prepared to work towards improving the safety of military flights over the Baltic Sea. The ministry has asked experts of NATO and the Baltic nations to come to Moscow for consultations to develop steps for implementing Finnish President Sauli Niinisto's initiative, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told the press.
Antonov confirmed that the Russian Defense Ministry is ready to "ensure military aviation flights over the Baltic only with transponders on" on a mutual basis.
Additionally, the minister noted that Russia is prepared "for the joint work of precluding incidents at sea and in the air under bilateral agreements in this sphere, as well as for consultations with the defense ministries of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Sweden, and Finland to address mutual concerns over military activity in border areas."