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Russian plane crosses into Finnish airspace: Finland

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s border guard is investigating why a Russian aircraft crossed into Finnish airspace on Wednesday, the second such incident this year, Finland’s defense ministry said.

A Russian Tu-154 entered half a km (500 yards) into the Finnish airspace at 10.55-10.58 a.m. local time (3:55 a.m. - 3:58 a.m. EST), southwest of Porvoo on Finland’s southern coast, the ministry said in a statement.

“This is being investigated by the border guard. We don’t have much detail yet. In general, we have always asked for an explanation (for such incidents),” defense Ministry spokesman Jyrki Iivonen said.

The Finnish Air Force scrambled an aircraft to identify the plane.

Russia’s air force said its Tu-154 had been making a flight near Finland on Wednesday, but had not violated the Scandinavian nation’s airspace.

“The plane’s crew deviated from the original course and took the direction towards Finland, at 11.56-12.02 Moscow time, upon an order from the regional air traffic control centre in Tallinn (Estonia),” Itar-Tass quoted Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, the aide to Russia’s airforce commander, as saying.

“The Tallinn traffic controller twice gave the order to the crew, and this order was fulfilled,” he said. “At 12.02 Moscow time, the plane returned to its original course and continued the flight without further deviations.”

The alleged violation comes after a Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane infringed Finnish airspace in September in the same area.

Russia expressed regret for the violation in September and called it an unintentional incursion.

Air force representatives from Finland, Russia and Estonia met in Helsinki last month to discuss use of the narrow and busy channel of international airspace above the Gulf of Finland.

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow)

Reporting by Sami Torma; Editing by Giles Elgood