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Denmark, Sweden warn Russia after air near-miss

By Ed Adamczyk
Denmark, Sweden warn Russia after air near-miss
A Russian Su-24 fighter plane is seen in an undated Russian Air Force photo. For the first time since the Soviet Union dissolved, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Su-24 fighter planes back on long-range patrol, posturing Russia's growing military relations with China, on August 17, 2007. (UPI Photo/Sergei Tsvetkov/Russian Air Force) | License Photo

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Russian ambassadors were summoned by the Swedish and Danish governments Monday to hear complaints after a near collision between a Russian military plane and a civilian plane.

A passenger jet flown by Cimber Sterling, affiliated with the Swedish airline SAS, was forced to change course to avoid a Russian military plane near Malmo, Sweden, after it departed Copenhagen Friday, Swedish authorities said. It is the latest in a series of incidents in which Russian fighter jets and reconnaissance planes have interfered with commercial air traffic in the Baltic Sea area.

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Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said Monday it was "totally unreasonable that civilian lives are put at risk in this way. I hope we can reach an agreement with the Russians that we try to limit these kind of flights."

The Swedish Defense Minister noted the Russian planes typically fly without engaging a transponder, an electrical device used to identify a plane's position, calling the action "serious, inappropriate and downright dangerous" and adding, "It is remarkable and very serious. There is a risk of accidents that could ultimately lead to deaths."

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Last week Finnish aviation authorities ordered civil aircraft to change course because a group of Russian planes was flying over the Baltic Sea without use of their transponders.

NATO has reported Russian aircraft have violated the sovereign airspace of Estonia, Finland and Sweden this year. In March an SAS passenger plane and a Russian military plane came within 100 meters (328 feet) of each other over Copenhagen airport, Swedish television reported.

The firm diplomatic response Monday is indicative of the concern of Baltic countries regarding Russian overflights and Russia's seeming disregard for safety.

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