08:46 GMT24 September 2020
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    According to the Russian military, NATO has increased its aerial surveillance efforts near the Russian border by 30 percent compared to the previous year.

    Russia is not interested in an arms race, but is forced to combat capabilities in response to unfriendly actions by NATO, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Saturday.

    "All measures taken are aimed exclusively at strengthening the defense, are limited in scale and correspond to modern military dangers", Shoigu told reporters.

    "We are not interested in the arms race. To reduce tensions, we intend to adhere to the maximum openness regarding military activity", the minister said adding that the relevant information is being posted on the Defence Ministry's website, while briefings are held for military attaches and media.

    Shoigu pointed out that Russia had offered NATO a reduction in the number of drills amid the pandemic to prevent further difficulties, but the alliance responded negatively.

    "The military leadership of Russia has repeatedly proposed to agree on joint measures in order to prevent further complications in relations", Shoigu said.

    According to the minister, these measures include transferring military drills to the inland exercise areas from the contact line between Russia and NATO, agreeing on the minimum permissible distance of approach of ships and aircraft, reducing the number of exercises and other activities of the Russian armed forces and the joint armed forces of NATO during the pandemic.

    "These initiatives are still relevant. However, Brussels perceives them negatively. NATO is not yet ready to work together constructively to enhance regional stability", Shoigu added.

    The minister said that the North Atlantic Alliance has recently intensified its aerial surveillance efforts.

    "The intensity of NATO's air reconnaissance near the Russian border increased by more than 30 percent compared to the last year, in August of the last year, [there were] 87 flights, now about 120", Shoigu told reporters following the end of the International Army Games.

    According to the minister, from 23 August to 2 September, Russian jets were scrambled at least 10 times to intercept foreign planes over the Baltic, Barents, and Black seas.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in late August that Moscow has repeatedly offered NATO to start de-escalating military tensions, but the alliance has not demonstrated its readiness for similar steps. "Russia has already abandoned large-scale exercises near the borders of NATO countries, and moved large-scale military drills inland", Lavrov said.

    Shoigu expressed hopes that the alliance's stance would change in the future.

    Tags:
    Sergey Shoigu, weapons, military drills, Russia
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