(Adds minister's comments)
HELSINKI Aug 28 Finland accused Russia on
Thursday of violating its airspace for the third time in less
than a week, saying it would demand an explanation for what the
defence minister termed an unacceptable incursion.
Finland scrambled jets to identify the Russian plane it
suspected of crossing over, which it called a state aircraft --
a term that refers to those used in military, customs and police
"We will express the fact that from our perspective, this is
totally unacceptable," minister Carl Haglund said according to
the online edition of newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
The Russian defence ministry was not immediately available
Haglund's remarks came as Ukraine's president accused Russia
on Thursday of bringing troops across the countries' border in
support of pro-Moscow separatist rebels.
Haglund said the frequency of the incidents suggested the
breaches of Finnish airspace were intentional.
Helsinki accused Moscow of similar incursions on Saturday
and Monday, with the Finnish border guard saying the latter
episode was a clear violation. It describes incursions as
suspected until it has analysed all relevant data.
"It is very difficult to see it as a matter of coincidence.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of valid explanations, it seems
there is some intentionality involved," Haglund told the
He also said Finland would step up airborne monitoring of
flights within its airspace.
In all, Finland has now accused Russia of violating its
airspace five times since the Ukraine crisis started in
February, although the border agency concluded that two
instances in May were likely to have been accidental.
Such violations usually happen a few times each year, but
three within a week is highly unusual.
Finland shares a 1,300-km (800-mile) border with Russia and
maintains generally cordial relations with its former ruler, but
Finland's defence forces are reported to have stepped up
surveillance due to the Ukraine crisis.
On Wednesday, Finland increased its cooperation with the
NATO Atlantic alliance, entering into a framework arrangement to
outline cooperation in emergencies.
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Sakari Suoninen, Editing by
Jeremy Gaunt and John Stonestreet)