NATO's chief said yesterday that Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region was unjustified and that its aircraft regularly failed to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers, and fly with their transponders off, posing a risk to civil aviation.
At the Amari air base in Estonia, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said alliance fighters had intercepted planes more than 100 times in the region so far this year, a threefold increase on 2013.
But he didn't say how many of them were Russian. Gen Stoltenberg said the alliance "should stay vigilant" because Russia has increased its military air activity in the Black Sea and Norwegian Sea, as well as the Baltic area, even though most of the flights occurred in international airspace.
He said Nato aircraft had conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of European alliance members - an increase of 50pc from last year. "It's a pattern we haven't seen for many years and which should remind us of the way they (Russians) conducted this kind of military air activity in the time of the Cold War,"Gen Stoltenberg said.
At a joint news conference with Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, Stoltenberg said Nato was "ready to react when needed." Mr Roivas said: "Russia's actions in and around Ukraine have been very aggressive.