Jets Scrambling on Russia Scare Halt Spain PM’s Press Conference

A news conference in Lithuania with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was abruptly halted as NATO scrambled jets to intercept two Russian aircraft.

The event at the Siauliai airbase was interrupted as pilots charged toward their planes to prepare for take-off. To clear the way, Sanchez was ushered away from his podium along with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

The Spanish fighter jets took off within minutes to intercept two Russian Su-24s traveling from Kaliningrad over international waters in the Baltic Sea. They had no flight plan and didn’t respond to calls.

“Do you think nothing goes on in reality while presidents and prime ministers speak?” Nauseda said later. “I can confirm that the aircraft took off within less than 15 minutes. Thank you, Pedro, we’ve just witnessed how the air-policing mission works in reality. The qualification and readiness of your pilots gives us no reason for doubt.”

Russian air incursions over the Baltic Sea surged after President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, triggering European Union sanctions. On average, the Baltic air-police mission intercepts Russian aircraft about two to three times a week.

“We witnessed how well the Lithuanian and Spanish soldiers cooperate,” Sanchez said. “That’s what we’re here for -- to defend the eastern borders and territorial integrity.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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