Lithuanian radars miss airspace violation

By TBT staff

VILNIUS - Parliament's Liberal Movement group has turned to acting Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, asking that he explain recent airspace violations by a Belarusian helicopter.

The daily newspaper Lietuvos Rytas reported that Belarusian military helicopter Mi-8 entered Lithuania's air space on two occasions June 19. Military radars missed both violations.

"The minister of defense should take responsibility for what seems to be a "leaky" guard of Lithuanian and NATO state borders and air space," vice-chairman of Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee, Algis Kaseta, said in a press release circulated by the group.

The first violation occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on June 19, when the helicopter flew some three kilometers into Lithuania, manoeuvred for more than 10 minutes and then flew back into Belarus.

About 20 minutes later, the Belarusian aircraft returned, this time flying 100 meters into Lithuanian territory.

Lithuania's Air Force Air Observation and Control Agency failed to record the violations.

According to official report, the foreign aircraft was sighted and announced by officers of the Lazdijai unit of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service. With binoculars, they observed the helicopter flying at an altitude of approximately 300 meters, and could clearly see Belarusian army symbols.

Lithuanian border guards could also see several military trucks, boats and about 50 troops on the Belarusian side of the Nemunas River.

Officials reported the foreign aircraft to Lithuanian prosecutors who immediately launched an investigation. The Defense Ministry was notified about the incident, but, according to the daily, it did not respond to the report.

The Foreign Ministry also kept silent about the news, disobeying procedures to notify the violator's country of origin.

This is the second case in the past month that Lithuanian military radars have failed to register unlawful crossings at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.