Two Nato jets that were scrambled to intercept Russian jets over the Baltic Sea accidentally entered Finnish airspace on Tuesday, 1 August. The two Spanish F-18s were escorting the Russian planes – two MiG-31s and Antonov AN-26 cargo plane – when the violation happened.
Incidents like the latest aerial encounter between Russian and Western forces have become a routine occurrence at multiple sites. Both sides accuse each other of stepping up their military activities as a show of strength.
The Nato jets from the Spanish forces originated from Estonia's Amari Airbase and inadvertently entered into the airspace of Finland, which is not a member of the transatlantic alliance. Nato's Baltic Air Policing unit provides air cover to Baltic states Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia against Moscow's increasing military assertions in the region.
"In handing over the intercept to the Finnish jets, the Spanish jets accidentally entered Finnish airspace. Nato's Air Command has explained the incident to the Finnish Air Operations Centre to improve future coordination," said the bloc's acting spokesman, Dylan P White.
According to the Finnish defence ministry, Nato's F-18 Super Hornets spent about a minute in the Finnish airspace southwest of capital Helsinki.
Moscow defended that none of its aircraft violated a border of any state in the region and the interception took place in the neutral international airspace.
"The flight of a group of Russian aircraft was carried out in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace, without violating the borders of other states," said a statement from the Russian foreign ministry.
The latest incident took place just hours after US Vice President Mike Pence visited Estonia reaffirming Washington's commitment to providing security in the wake of Russian military build-up.
"To be clear, we hope for better days, for better relations with Russia, but recent diplomatic action taken by Moscow will not deter the commitment of the United States of America to our security, the security of our allies, and the security of freedom-loving nations around the world," said Pence in the presence of leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.