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Russia denies brief violation into Finnish western airspace

A Russian aircraft was suspected to have violated Finnish air space briefly on Saturday, just before 1600 GMT, said the Finnish Ministry of Defence.

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said on Sunday that he had received a sufficient report about the incident and that no drama had been involved.

The ministry described the aircraft as a Russian state aircraft which could mean a military plane or other plane in governmental use. Russia has denied that its aircraft violated Finnish air space on Saturday.

The brief alleged violation took place west of the Hanko peninsula, in southwestern Finland.

Russians are using a fairly narrow air corridor over the Gulf of Finland to avoid the territories of either Finland or Estonia.

Russian state aircraft are usually on their way to or from the Russian enclave Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania.

Starting from Hanko towards the west, the flight paths turn south.

Stubb said Finnish F-18 Hornet fighters had not taken off to fly an identification mission this time.

Last May in the wake of violations east of Helsinki, then-Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen claimed Hornets had been dispatched, but it turned out they had not. Katainen had to correct his statement, and the situation led to a public discussion about the preparedness of the Finnish Airforce.

Suspected violation by Russian planes are not rare in Finland, a western neighbor of Russia. Usually the planes briefly entered the Finnish airspace above the eastern areas, and a suspected violation in the west is strange.

Unlike other Russian western neighbors like Norway and Estonia, Finland is not a member of NATO.

[Source: Xinhua, Helsinki, 24Aug14]

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