Four Russian fighter jets are intercepted after flying into Polish and Swedish air space
- The jets took off from Kaliningrad and flew through Polish and Swedish airspace
- Italy’s air force scrambled four Eurofighter jets to intercept the offending aircraft
- The Russian jets were forced to return to the Russian exclave, the air force said
- Rome’s jets were stationed in Poland earlier this year as part of a NATO mission
- Unsettling aerial confrontation came as war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine
Four Russian fighter jets were intercepted and forced to return to base after they infringed on Polish and Swedish air space earlier today, according to Italy’s air force.
Aeronautica Militare announced that the squadron took off from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, and flew an aggressive path which took them through Polish skies.
The offending jets then continued over the Baltic Sea before entering Swedish airspace.
Italy quickly scrambled four Eurofighter Typhoon jets in response which took off from Poland’s Malbork air base and intercepted the Russian aircraft, ‘forcing’ them to return back to Kaliningrad, the air force claimed.
Rome’s planes were stationed in Poland as part of NATO air policing mission this summer.
Poland is a long-time member of NATO having joined in 1999, while Sweden earlier this year applied for membership to the security bloc alongside Nordic neighbour Finland.
The unsettling sortie by Russia’s fighter jets comes as fighting continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, with Russian president Vladimir Putin having made a series of nuclear threats to the West as his troops retreat in the face of Ukrainian counteroffensives.
Eurofighter Typhoon jets are pictured preparing for takeoff to intercept Russian jets that had infringed on Polish and Swedish airspace according to Italy’s air force
Italy’s air force announced that the squadron took off from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and said Eurofighters were dispatched to intercept them
Kaliningrad meanwhile is a Russian province which lies between Poland and Lithuania.
Italian jet fighters are currently stationed in Poland as part of the Baltic Air Policing operation, which is an expression of the solidarity of NATO countries with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, i.e. those countries of the Alliance that do not have their own military aviation.
Permanent air policing is a mandatory procedure, so in this case the task of guarding the sky is shared by NATO allies who take turns running operations on three-month rotations.
Kaliningrad is a Russian province which lies between Poland and Lithuania.
It was founded in 1255 as Koenigsberg, capital of East Prussia and remained a German city for centuries until it was captured by Stalin’s Red Army during WWII.
The Soviet Union renamed the city Kaliningrad in 1946 and later evicted its German population, claiming the territory as its own.
The exclave is now home to almost a million Russians and is a heavily militarised region.
Putin earlier this year threatened to send nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad while Russian officials warned of ‘consequences with a serious negative impact’ to the population of Lithuania after the EU and NATO member state decided to block Moscow from sending EU-sanctioned goods to the isolated Russian territory.
Italian jet fighters are currently stationed in Poland as part of the Baltic Air Policing operation
Russia in August deployed several MiG-31-K fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles – which can be equipped with nuclear warheads – to its European exclave of Kaliningrad
It is unclear which kind of Russian planes prompted the Eurofighters to intervene earlier today, but Moscow’s defence ministry announced in August that several MiG-31 fighter jets were dispatched to Kaliningrad.
The specially modified MiG-31K variants can carry Kinzhal or ‘Dagger’ hypersonic missiles, which can be armed with nuclear warheads and fly at 12 times the speed of sound.
Kaliningrad’s location has put it in the forefront of Moscow’s efforts to counter what it described as NATO’s hostile policies.
The Kremlin has methodically bolstered its military forces there, arming them with state-of-the-art weapons, including precision-guided Iskander missiles and an array of air defence systems.