NATO fighter jets were mobilised to head off Russian military aircraft that were attempting to avoid detection near Europe four times in just five days.
Russian military planes were intercepted by the NATO Air Policing team tasked with guarding airspace over the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
NATO fighters were scrambled to escort the Russian aircraft on four separate occasions between April 9 and April 14, according to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence.
On each occasion the Russian aircraft were flying to or from Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic coast.
The Russian planes flew in international airspace “without using the onboard transponder” – a device used to help air traffic controllers identify the aircraft, Lithuania’s MoD said.
A Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) was triggered in response to the Russian flights, meaning NATO deemed the unidentified aircraft a possible cause for concern.
NATO fighter jets are routinely deployed to shadow Russian military aircraft flying near European airspace, typically to and from Kaliningrad.
But the Russian Air Force appears to have ramped up its activity in recent days amid simmering military tensions over the suspected chemical attack in Douma, Syria.
The Lithuanian ministry said: “On April 9-15 NATO fighter aircraft conducting the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states were scrambled four times to intercept military aircraft of the Russian Federation in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.”