18:52 Oct. 7, 2016
The incidents happened during the visits of US and Ukrainian military officials
Estonia said a Russian jet violated its airspace on Friday, hours after neighboring Finland said two similar planes passed over its territory as it prepared to sign a defense pact with the United States, Reuters reports. Moscow denied sending planes across anyone's borders – but one analyst said the flights could have been staged as a reminder of Russia's influence, as countries in the region looked to strengthen ties with the West, agency explains.
Estonia's defense ministry said a Russian fighter jet entered its airspace for less than a minute with its transponder turned off at 2.38 a.m. (7.38 p.m. ET, Thursday). Helsinki said two different SU-27 planes crossed into its airspace on Thursday afternoon and evening, over the Gulf of Finland - the body of water that separates it from Estonia.
"We take these incidents seriously," Finland's defense minister, Jussi Niinisto, told reporters. "Having two suspected violations on the same day is exceptional." Past incursions had mostly been by Russian cargo planes, not fighter jets, he said.
Russia's defense ministry dismissed the reports, saying SU-27 military planes had conducted training flights on Thursday and Friday over neutral waters, Russian agencies reported.
Finland has grown increasingly worried about military activities by Russia and has tightened cooperation with Sweden and fostered closer ties with NATO. On Friday it signed a defense cooperation deal with the United States, covering training and information sharing but stopping short of military assistance.
The reported incursion in Estonia also coincided with a one-day visit there by Ukraine's defense minister.
As UT reported, in August RAF jets intercept Russian heavy bombers near UK airspace. The incident repeated in October, when fighter jets from four European countries intercepted two Russian Blackjack bombers.