Scandinavians Warn Russia After Air Near-Miss

Russian intelligence aircraft Ilyushin Il-20MRussia’s ambassadors to Denmark and Sweden have been summoned to hear complaints that lives were endangered in a near-miss involving an airliner and a Russian military aircraft.

An SAS jet taking off from Copenhagen on Friday was warned by Swedish air traffic control to change course to avoid a Russian military intelligence flight, said Swedish authorities.

Martin Lidegaard, Denmark’s foreign minister, said on 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 firm diplomatic response underlines the depth of concern among Baltic countries about Russian military aircraft flying without transponders on, meaning civil aircraft cannot detect them.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, said it was “serious, inappropriate and downright dangerous” that the Russian aircraft was flying with its transponder — used to identify its position — switched off. He told Swedish reporters: “It is remarkable and very serious. There is a risk of accidents that could ultimately lead to deaths.”

Nicolai Wammen, Denmark’s defence minister, said: “It is dangerous and completely unnecessary that Russian military aircraft fly so close to civil air traffic in the Baltic Sea. The safety of passengers must always come first, and Russia must respect that.”

The incident is the latest in a series involving Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea this year. In March, an SAS airliner came within 100 metres of a Russian military aircraft shortly after take-off from Copenhagen, Swedish television reported.

Russian aircraft have violated Swedish, Finnish and Estonian airspace this year — the latter judged by some Nato officials as the most serious incursion into the military alliance’s airspace since the cold war.

Image: Russian intelligence aircraft Ilyushin Il-20M (photo: Kirill Naumenko)