Estonia protests to Russia over helicopter airspace violation

Estonia also called for Russian troops to leave Ukraine, and expressed solidarity with fellow Baltic nation Lithuania.

Russian Mi-8 helicopters fly towards Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2020.
Russian MI-8 helicopters fly towards Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2020 [File: Rostislav Netisov/ AFP]

NATO member Estonia summoned the Russian ambassador to protest an “extremely serious” violation of its airspace by a Russian border guard helicopter, the foreign ministry said.

The Estonian foreign ministry and military said on Tuesday that a Russian border guard MI-8 helicopter had flown over a point in the country’s southeast without permission on June 18.

The incident marks the second time in less than two weeks that Estonia has reprimanded Moscow’s envoy to Tallinn.

“Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident that undoubtedly causes additional tensions and is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Russia must stop threatening its neighbours and understand that the price of the aggression Russia launched against Ukraine is indeed high,” the ministry added.

The statement also repeated calls for Russian troops to leave Ukraine and expressed solidarity with fellow Baltic nation Lithuania, which Moscow says will be punished for banning the transit of some goods – on European Union sanctions lists – to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told Lithuania that it would feel pain for banning the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU across its territory to and from Kaliningrad.

Estonia’s military said in a statement that the Russian MI-8 helicopter entered the country’s airspace in southeastern Estonia in the Koidula area – not far from the Russian city of Pskov – without permission on Saturday evening.

The helicopter was in Estonia’s airspace for almost two minutes, Estonia’s military said, adding that the helicopter had not presented a flight plan, had its transponder switched off, and failed to maintain radio contact with Estonian Air Navigation Services.

The alleged intrusion was the second violation of Estonia’s airspace this year.

Last year, Russian aircraft – military and civilian – violated Estonia’s airspace five times, the military said.

Estonia also complained to Moscow’s envoy on June 10 about Putin’s praise for an 18th-century Russian ruler who captured a city that is now Estonian.

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia belonged to the Russian empire before gaining independence in the aftermath of World War One.

In 1940, the Soviet Union annexed the three countries which did not regain their independence until 1991.

Source: News Agencies