Defence Forces commander sees airspace violations as serious issue
Parliamentary committee hears experts on issue
Chief of Defence Admiral Juhani Kaskeala considers the repeated violations of Finnish airspace by Russian military planes to be a serious matter. Speaking at a press conference of the Satakunta Air Command in Pirkkala, Kaskeala nevertheless said that clarifying the issue between Finland and Russia is a sufficient reaction on Finland’s part.
The incursions were also discussed on Tuesday by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament.
A total of 11 violations of Finnish air space by Russian planes have been reported since October last year. The incidents involved flights between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, in which the Russian aircraft deviated from the corridor of international airspace over the Gulf of Finland.
Encroaching on Finnish airspace have been several planes, including a twin-engine cargo plane transporting conscripts. A twin-engine passenger jet also strayed into Finnish airspace.
The most serious violation was that of an A-50 air combat command plane with a large radar.
Former Air Force commander Matti Ahola, who is now Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Defence, sees no possible excuse for the A-50 to stray off course.
"The others might fly over the Gulf of Finland using a watch and a compass for navigation", Ahola says.
None of the Russian planes were armed when they flew into Finnish airspace.
Members of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee were briefed by experts from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Defence Forces on Tuesday on the airspace violations.
Kirsi Eskelinen and Kimmo Lähdevirta of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Colonel Jaakko Numminen of the Defence Staff gave the MPs details of the incidents.
Jari Vilén (Nat. Coalition), Chairman of the Parliament’s Grand Committee, suspected that Russia might be testing both Finland’s military readiness, and its political reactions.
It is expected that some kind of an explanation may come from Russia when Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) visits Moscow in June. During his visit, Vanhanen is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, but not with President Vladimir Putin.
"If no clarification has come before that, the matter will be taken up in Moscow", said a source close to the Prime Minister.
Previously in HS International Edition:
PM Vanhanen sees airspace violations as bilateral issue between Finland and Russia (23.5.2005)
PM Vanhanen to protest violations of Finnish air space by Russian war planes (20.5.2005)