VILNIUS, April 3 (Reuters) - The number of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to around once a week, Lithuania said on Thursday, a concern for countries worried about an increasing assertiveness by Moscow.
“The number of incidents of NATO jets being scrambled to identify Russian Federation aircraft has increased in January and February this year,” minister of defence spokesman Vaidotas Linkus told Reuters by email.
NATO jets were scrambled about 40 times in both 2012 and 2013. In 2004, jets were scrambled only once.
Denmark is sending six F16 fighter jets to the Baltic as part of an expanded NATO air policing mission to reassure eastern members of the alliance following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Patrols will begin on May 1.
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have been members of NATO since 2004.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday any increase in NATO’s permanent presence in eastern Europe to reassure its allies would violate a 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation. (Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sonya Hepinstall)