03:49 GMT +320 January 2020
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    The number of air incidents involving Russian and NATO planes has increased in as a result of growing presence of the alliance forces near Russia.

    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) Most aircraft interceptions carried out by NATO and Russia over the Baltic sea are made in a professional manner, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

    "The vast majority of the intercepts in the Baltic region are done in professional and safe manner on both sides. So, I think it is important not to mix intercepts, which is a normal procedure to identify planes with dangerous situations," Stoltenberg told reporters before a NATO defense ministers' meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels.

    The comment comes against the background of a recent incident in the Baltic Sea, when on June 21, a NATO F-16 fighter tried to get close to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's plane flying over neutral Baltic waters to Russia's Kaliningrad exclave and was chased away by a Russian jet.

    The NATO secretary general noted that currently the Alliance was studying the ways of improving safety of interceptions and other air operations over the Baltic region.

    "We are focused on how we can improve air safety of the Baltic Sea region. We welcome the initiative taken by Finland to convene meeting and a group of experts, which encompasses Sweden, Finland, the Baltic states and some other organizations and countries," Stoltenberg said.

    The number of air incidents involving Russian and NATO planes has increased in the past years as a result of growing presence of the US-led alliance forces near Russia’s western border since 2014. In addition, the Baltic states have constantly accused Russia of violations of their airspace.

    The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly stated that its flights are carried out in strict accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters.


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    interception, NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Baltic Region, Russia
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