On Saturday, September 16, two Russian Il-76 military transport planes flew into Lithuanian air space, Delfi news agency reported, citing information from the Lithuanian Defense Ministry.
It was reported that the aircraft were over Lithuanian territory for a period of two minutes. They were sent from the Russian mainland to one of the airfields in the Kaliningrad region.
On Monday, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry registered a protest with the Russian ambassador in connection with the incident, demanding an explanation and asking that measures be taken so that the incident is not repeated in the future.
On September 14-20, Russia and Belarus are conducting the joint military Zapad-2017 exercises in Belarus. According to Moscow, at least 13,000 servicemen are participating in the exercises, but experts from the West say that the number is actually about 100,000.
According to Lithuanian foreign intelligence, the exercises are focusing on a potential armed conflict with NATO. Part of the area in which the exercises are being held is near the Lithuanian border, so the possibility of provocation is not being ruled out.
During his visit to Kyiv, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko guaranteed that the territory of his country would not be used to invade Ukraine. Nevertheless, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon believes that the Zapad-2017 exercises are being conducted with the goal of provoking NATO. And the French Ministry of Defense called them “a strategy of intimidation.”
At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg does not see a threat in the Russian Zapad-2017 exercises, but he criticized Moscow for not being very open about them.