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Russian bombers caught close to Swedish island

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Russian bombers caught close to Swedish island
A Jas Gripen plane snapped in 2013. Photo: TT
16:17 CEST+02:00
Two Swedish Jas Gripen aircraft warned off a pair of Russian fighter jets that were flying close to the southern Swedish island of Öland on Thursday.
The Russian planes were spotted approaching Sweden at lunchtime, but did not quite enter Swedish airspace, according to the country's Supreme Commander Sverker Göranson.
 
"[They] went out over the Gulf of Finland and then went southwards above the southern tip of Öland," he told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio on Thursday afternoon.
 
He added that the aircraft "flew provocatively close" both to Sweden's national borders as well as airspace used by other countries sending aircraft across the Baltic Sea.
 
According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Russian planes were both Tupolev Tu-22M aircraft, which can carry atomic weapons as well as conventional bombs, but are also used for surveillance.
 
Jesper Tengroth, a press officer for the Swedish Armed Forces, told the newspaper that Sweden subsequently sent two JAS Gripen planes into the area to try to warn off the potential intruders. 
 
"In practice, we said 'hey, we are watching you'," he said.
 
 
The move follows a similar incident in March this year when two Russian planes were spotted in international airspace but heading towards Sweden's east coast.
 
In September 2014 two SU-24 fighter-bombers allegedly entered Swedish airspace in what the former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called "the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians" in almost a decade.
 
The following month a foreign submarine was spotted in Swedish waters, although the Swedish military was unable to determine where it came from. 
 
Sweden's Security Service Säpo, has said that the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden in 2014 came from Russia. The Nordic nation has recently increased defence spending, although there has been strong criticism of the Social Democrat-led government's strategy, with many leading defence experts arguing that Sweden would still struggle to defend itself in the event of an attack from Russia.
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