Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered beginning of work on a system of trust measures to raise security of the flights above the Baltic Sea, the ministry’s press service told TASS on Saturday.
The experts will offer certain organizational and technical measures, including use of transponders by the Russian Aerospace Force, so that air control services in the Baltic region could identify Russian aircraft during their flights above the Baltic Sea’s neutral waters.
If the NATO countries agree their aircraft would make flights close to the Russian border with turned on transponders, experts of the Russian defense ministry could discuss further details of this suggestion. The ministry now considers putting on agenda of the Russia-NATO Council due on July 13 the issue of providing for security of flights above the Baltic Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto Russia supports Finland’s initiative to ban flights over the Baltic Sea with transponders switched off. “We share the Finnish president’s initiative. Moreover, upon arrival in Moscow I will issue instructions to the Russian foreign and defense ministries to raise this issue at the upcoming session of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels due to take place after a NATO summit in Warsaw,” Putin said.
The Russian president said that special attention at the talks was focused on issues of security in the Baltic Sea. “President Niinisto drew my attention to the incidents taking place in that region and to the situation that has formed around the Baltic Sea,” Putin said. “We came up with an initiative to elaborate a system of measures of trust to enhance security in the Baltic Sea region.”
The Russian leader noted that not only Russian aircraft are flying over the Baltic Sea with their transponders off. NATO planes, in his words, do exactly the same. “The number of flights of NATO countries’ aircraft in this regime is twice as big as that of Russia’s,” he said. “This is not our fantasy, it is statistics.” During the talks with Putin, the Finnish president advanced an initiative to agree rules of flights over the Baltic Sea to guarantee their safety. “We are fully aware that there is certain fear of Russia in the Baltic countries, just as Russia sees NATO as a threat. It is necessary to take small steps to build up trust,” Niinisto said.
“Efforts aimed at avoiding the situation that can inflict harm could be a small step. For example, these are flights with transponders turned off. I suggested that we together agree that transponders are used all the time during flights in the Baltic region,” the Finnish president said.