Estonia has accused Russia of violating its airspace for the first time by helicopter, in a highly provocative move ahead of a major NATO summit.
The Baltic state, a member of the NATO alliance, also said ongoing Russian military exercises are simulating missile strikes against its country daily.
“This is the picture of the threat. How we see the Russian threat… It has never been as serious as it is now,” said Kusti Salm, the top civil servant at the Estonian defence ministry, speaking to journalists on Tuesday.
The hostile activity emerged as Russia is locked in a heated exchange with Lithuania, another Baltic state and fierce critic of Vladimir Putin‘s regime, over a decision by Vilnius to block the transit by rail of certain sanctioned goods to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.
It also came just days before the heads of state and government of the 30-strong NATO alliance meet for a landmark summit in Madrid, where they are set to present plans for a fundamental reshaping of their defences in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Estonia said it has summoned the Russian ambassador to Tallinn to protest at the flight path of the MI-8 border guard helicopter, which it said entered Estonian airspace for two minutes without permission on Saturday evening.
The incident took place in the southern Koidula area, not far from the Russian city of Pskov, according to a statement from Estonia’s military.
Mr Salm said there had been “multiple border violations by helicopters” from Russia over the past week.
He said one helicopter had crossed the border, while another flew very close. He described these helicopter incidents as having happened “several times in the region”.
The senior Estonian civil servant said: “Getting over the border with a helicopter cannot be a mistake – there have been multiple examples in recent days.
“Beside the border actions, there have been provocative actions flying very near the vicinity of the border in the last days.”
Russia is also conducting military exercises that include simulating missile strikes on its Baltic neighbour.
“It is real life. They are actually simulating missiles attacks against NATO territory and letting us know that they are doing this,” Mr Salm said.