NATO has sent jets to intercept two Russian aircraft near the Finnish border with Norway amid growing tensions in the region.
The Norwegian Air Force intercepted a Mikoyan MiG-31 ‘Foxhound’ jet and a Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ jet near its airspace on Thursday.
Tensions between Russia and the Nordic countries have soared since Finland and Sweden infuriated Vladimir Putin by applying for NATO membership on May 18 – nearly doubling Russia’s border with its feared enemies overnight.
Russian warplanes were intercepted by two NATO F-35 jets over the Norwegian Sea before retreating eastward, the Air Force said.
The jets have been observed outside Finnmark, in the far north of Norway, but have never been in official Norwegian airspace.
Stine Barclay Gaasland, communications manager for the Norwegian Air Force, said two F35s are always on standby, in what is called a Rapid Reaction Alert for NATO.
“In 15 minutes they should be on the air and ready all the time. It’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Gaasland told Norway’s 2 Nyhetene TV.
The invasion of Norwegian airspace could have prompted “more aggressive action,” Gaasland said.
Asked if the raids were a threat to Norway, she said: “I don’t want to say that because we are used to it and there is nothing illegal about it.
“We pay close attention to all activities in our local areas.”
Some 58 similar identifications led to 34 last year, the Norwegian Armed Forces said.
Sweden and Finland will participate in a NATO summit in Madrid from June 28 to 30 to cement their bid to join the historic military alliance.
The Nordic countries submitted their request together and said they were spurred on by Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.