Italian jets scrambled in response to four Russian fighter planes that entered European airspace on Wednesday, according to Italy’s air force.
The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) Twitter page shared a picture of two Italian aircraft. “#Scramble, new immediate take-off for the Eurofighter Italians engaged in Air Policing activities in Poland to intercept 4 Russian fighters that had affected Polish and Swedish airspace before being forced to re-enter Kaliningrad airspace,” the page tweeted.
The page tweeted a follow-up picture that showed another Italian aircraft taking off. It also clarified that the Russian aircraft first entered Polish airspace and then Sweden’s airspace.
The incident comes at a time of high tensions between Russia and the West and Ukraine, particularly with the latter’s successful counteroffensive campaigns that have brought significant military successes. In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently threatened to use nuclear weapons if his country has to defend itself against attack.
Matthias Eichenlaub, a NATO press officer, told Newsweek that Italy has jets assigned to the alliance’s air policing mission in the Baltic region. He also said that NATO aircraft in this region “regularly intercept Russian military aircraft that don’t follow international air safety rules.”
Last Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed support for Ukraine in its efforts to take back territories held by Russian forces. “Ukraine has, of course, the right to retake Ukrainian territory that is now occupied by Russian forces. That’s the reason why we support them,” he said.
He continued: “So they can defend themselves but also so they can continue to liberate territory. And as I said, the illegal annexation or attempt of annexing Ukrainian territory doesn’t change that. It doesn’t change the nature of this conflict.”
The secretary-general also emphasized that NATO would not be a victim of “nuclear blackmailing” and fears of Russian retaliation.