Latvia's Armed Forces have said that 12 Russian military aircraft were spotted flying close to the country's airspace, Russia's Tass news agency reported on Wednesday, quoting an official statement.
The statement from the Latvian National Armed Forces claimed Russian fighter jets, submarines and warships were spotted near the country’s territorial waters in Baltic Sea.
"Patrol aircraft were identified on Wednesday as four Mikoyan MiG-31, four Sukhoi Su-24, three Antonov An-26 and one Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft of the Russian Air Force over the international waters of the Baltic Sea near Latvia’s external sea border," according to the statement cited by Tass.
The Latvian military claims to have spotted Russian planes and ships several times in last two years, reporting a total of 310 approaches to its borders.
Alexander Veshnyakov, Russia’s Ambassador to Latvia, met with the Latvian defence minister early this year to discuss the issue, Tass reported, and said all Russian military movements were conducted according to "international legal norms and transparently."
Countries in the Baltic region have been particularly concerned after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine after Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych fled a pro-EU uprising last year.
The Baltic States are among the most vocal advocates of NATO strengthening its presence in the region, but the organisation is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia which bars it from placing permanent bases in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. This could be circumvented by staging constant rotations of “exercises” that would in practice amount to the same thing.
In March, the US sent 750 military tanks, helicopters, and other heavy equipment, along with nearly 3,000 soldiers to the region to participate in three-month training exercises in a show of strength against Russia.
The sending of heavy military equipment by the US to Latvia was condemned by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said the move would not helping to restore trust between Russia and NATO.