Russian military plane to fly over Portugal and Spain until March 8

With an uncanny sense of political timing, a Russian military plane is set to make observation flights over Portugal and Spain this week.

The news comes as Greece has accused Portugal and Spain of leading an “anti-Athens axis” against his government – which, as international media has pointed out, has well-known links with Russia.

Nevertheless, the official reason for the flights has been given as the Treaty of the Skies.

According to the treaty, in force since 2002, 34 countries are allowed “unarmed aerial observation flights to gather information about military forces and activities of concern to them”.

This week’s flights will be the fifth and sixth conducted by Russia this year, reports

Announced by the head of Russia’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center Sergei Ryzhkov, the flights “will be conducted during the period of March 1-8 from the Open Skies airfields in Lisbon (military airbase Figo Maduro) and Getafe (Spain) at a maximum range of 1200 and 1800kms respectively”.

“The observation flights are being carried out in order to promote more openness and transparency in the military activity of the treaty’s member-states and to build up security through the strengthening of trust measures,” Ryzhkov explained.

He added that the flights “will be conducted using the Russian Antonov An-30B aircraft along routes agreed upon with Portugal and Spain”.

Sputnik news website adds that “specialists from the two countries will be present on board the aircraft and will be monitoring the use of equipment and Russian inspectors’ adherence to the Open Skies treaty”.

At no point in the announcement, also covered by Portugal’s Observador website, was any mention made of the “incursions” by Russian military jets into Portuguese and other European countries’ airspace in October last year (see:

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]