Estonia has accused Russia of violating its airspace for the first time with a helicopter, in a highly provocative move ahead of a major NATO summit.
The Baltic state, a member of the NATO alliance, also said ongoing Russian military exercises simulate daily missile strikes on its country.
“This is the picture of the threat. How we see the Russian threat… It has never been more serious than it is now,” said Kusti Salm, the ministry’s top official Estonian Ministry of Defence, speaking to journalists on Tuesday.
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The hostile activity arose as Russia is locked in a heated exchange with Lithuania, another Baltic state and fierce critic Wladimir Putin‘s regime, about a decision by Vilnius too Blocking the rail transit of certain sanctioned goods into the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.
It also comes just days before leaders of the 30-member NATO alliance meet for a landmark summit in Madrid where they are due to unveil plans for a fundamental overhaul of their defenses in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Estonia said it had called the Russian ambassador to Tallinn to protest the trajectory of the MI-8 border patrol helicopter that entered Estonian airspace without permission for two minutes on Saturday night.
The incident happened in the southern Koidula region near the Russian city of Pskov, according to a statement by the Estonian military.
Mr Salm said there had been “several border violations by helicopters” from Russia over the past week.
He said one helicopter crossed the border while another flew very close. He described these helicopter incidents as “a number of times in the region”.
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The senior Estonian official said: “Coming across the border in a helicopter can’t be a mistake – there have been several examples in recent days.
“In addition to the border actions, there have been provocative actions in recent days that have flown very close to the border.”
Russia is also conducting military exercises simulating missile strikes on its Baltic neighbors.
“It’s real life. They are actually simulating missile strikes on NATO territory and letting us know they are doing so,” Mr Salm said.