NATO: Russia military flights over Europe rise

Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 AM EDT
A pro-Russian militant stands guard at a checkpoint in Maryinka, 25 kilometers west of Donetsk, on July 15, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Nato has reported an "unusual" increase in Russian military aircraft conducting manoeuvres over European airspace over the last two days. The BBC writes:

A Nato statement said four groups of aircraft, including Tu-95 Bear bombers and MiG-31 fighters, were tracked over seas and the Atlantic Ocean.

Fighter aircraft from Norway, Britain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey were scrambled in response. Tensions between Russia and Nato states have soared over the Ukraine crisis.

The US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula earlier this year. Ties have been further strained as the West has accused Russia of supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine - a charge Russia has denied.

The Nato statement on Wednesday made no mention of Ukraine. It said that the "sizeable" Russian flights were unusual for their scale, although no incidents had been reported.

Meanwhile, Russia, which the U.S. accused of backing Ukrainian rebels who shot down a Malaysian airliner in July, called new proposals from the United Nations aviation body on mitigating risks over conflict zones rushed and "superficial." Reuters reports:

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) launched a task force in July to look at ways to better share information about risks above conflict zones. The task force has laid out 12 proposals, seen by Reuters and confirmed by sources at the Montreal-based agency.

The Russian submission to the ICAO Council, which was also signed by Bolivia, says the agency "practically has lost" its role in investigating the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and criticized a pilot program to share intelligence. It said the agency’s pursuit of a centralized intelligence sharing mechanism was outside its mandate, and could lead to false information being given to pilots. The Russian objections could limit ICAO’s actions on conflict zones. Malaysia is also unhappy with the proposals, because it believes they do not go far enough, said two sources familiar with the matter. The United States said its satellite imagery proved Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down with a ground-to-air missile by Russian-backed rebels. Russia says a Ukrainian military aircraft downed it.