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Boost in Russian air maneuvers rattles Europe

Increase in military flights over Europe could threaten civilian aircraft, NATO warns.

By
Mary Papenfuss
Russian fighter jet maneuvers over the Atlantic and the Baltic, Black and North seas forced eight nations to scramble jets to intercept the aircraft. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)
Russian fighter jet maneuvers over the Atlantic and the Baltic, Black and North seas forced eight nations to scramble jets to intercept the aircraft. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah) | License Photo

BRUSSELS, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A mysterious flurry of Russian fighter jets has buzzed European seas the last two days, threatening the safety of civilian flights, NATO has warned.

Four groups of military aircraft, including Bear bombers and Mig-31 fighters, have conducted maneuvers in the airspace at a level rarely seen since the end of the Cold War, said officials, causing eight European nations to scramble their own jets to intercept the Russian aircraft. A NATO air-policing mission over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also called out fighters.

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The activity — over the Baltic, North and Black seas and the Atlantic Ocean — marks a notable "change in Russian behavior," said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who encouraged nations to step up air and sea patrols. Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Britain, Portugal and Turkey all scrambled jets in response to the Russian flights, which were over international waters but a nerve-wracking proximity to shore. The maneuvers represent a potential hazard to civilian air travel because the fighters don't file flight plans or have transponders so they're effectively invisible to planes.

NATO reports intercepting 100 Russian aircraft so far this year, triple the number last year. Sweden spent days last week seeking what officials suspected was a Russian submarine plying waters off its shore before calling off the hunt.

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