Finland to step up air surveillance after Russia violates airspace for third time in a week

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Yle, Finland’s public broadcaster, has learned that yet another Russian aircraft has strayed into Finnish airspace.

In the latest incident, a Russian transport plane is suspected of flying over Finland around mid-day Thursday. Defense Minister Carl Haglund said Thursday Finland will heighten its air surveillance activities as a result of the incursions.

According to information obtained by Yle, a Russian airplane ventured into Finnish territory near Porvoo on Thursday, according to information obtained by Yle. This time around, the suspected offender was a Russian An-72 transport aircraft believed to have crossed into Finnish airspace over the Gulf of Finland around mid-day.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Max Arhippainen said that the incursion lasted just a few minutes and did not penetrate deep into Finnish territory.

The precise direction of the aircraft will emerge once the Border Guards complete a report on the matter.

Yle sources indicate that Finnish Foreign Ministry officials have discussed the first incident with the Russian Embassy in Helsinki.

This would be the third such incursion within a week, and at least the fifth incident in recent months.

Last Monday a Russian state-owned plane crossed into Finnish airspace near Hanko, followed by another incident on Saturday near Porvoo. Both towns are on the south coast.

Defense Minister taking cases 'very seriously'

Defense Minister Haglund said he is taking the third suspected airspace violation very seriously. He said that the case was regrettable, precisely because it was the third such report within one week.

“Because of this we will have to increase surveillance activities and monitor the situation. And of course it would be hoped that the Russians would significantly improve their operations as well, because this can’t continue,” Haglund said.

The minister said that the Air Force scrambled a Hornet jet to the scene of the suspected violation. He added that it now seems that the repeated airspace violations are deliberate.

“It’s very difficult to see how this could be a question of coincidence,” he concluded.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.