17:14 12.03.2014

Moscow allows Ukraine to carry out emergency observation flight over Russia

A Ukrainian aircraft will carry out an observation flight over Russia upon Kyiv's request, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said.

"On March 11 Ukraine submitted the request to hold an emergency observation flight over Russia. Such a mission is being requested for the first time in the framework of the Open Skies Treaty signed in 1992. And even though we have no obligations to take the Ukrainian jet, we have decided to allow the observation group to carry out such a flight," Antonov told reporters on Wednesday.

"We expect that our neighbors will make sure that the Russian Armed Forces are conducting no military activities threatening Ukraine's security at its border," the deputy minister said.

Antonov commented on the statement made by acting Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh of March 11 regarding the drills in the western and central military districts, who said that "the Russian Armed Forces are holding drills near the eastern border on Ukraine and in Crimea." According to the Ukrainian ministers, a group of Russian servicemen comprising 220,000 people, 1,800 tanks and over 400 helicopters has allegedly been created.

"It is unlikely that the situation with Russian-Ukrainian relations should be escalated more today. It appears that this is exactly what Tenyukh is doing. He himself has outlined the tasks and purposes being resolved at that, having urged [Verkhovna] Rada deputies to immediately provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with 'the necessary resources and means'," Antonov said.

"We think that as a professional serviceman Tenyukh is well-aware that the active phase of unscheduled inspection of troops was completed in the western and central military districts on March 3 and that all military detachments were returned to their permanent bases on March 7. It is also evident that he voiced the figures characterizing 'the Russian military group' near the Ukrainian border in order to impress some nervous parliamentarians and 'broad international community'," the deputy minister said.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry is well-aware of the fact that Russia's southern and western military districts put together do not have the amount of tanks and battle helicopters named by Tenyukh," Antonov said.

"Apparently, the number of personnel 'deployed in the area bordering Ukraine' was counted taking into account the families of the servicemen," the deputy minister said.

On March 11, Ukraine sent to Moscow along the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) communication channels a request to hold a special observation flight over Russia under part 3 of the annex to the Open Skies Treaty, information policy department director of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Yevhen Perebyinis, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Wednesday.

"Ukraine and Russia are parties of the Open Skies Treaty, which stipulates the possibility of holding observation flights by states-participants or groups of participants over each others' territories using observational equipment. …According to the treaty, Russia must respond within 24 hours, thus approximately before 6.30 p.m. [Kyiv time] on March 12," Perebyinis said.

"Agreeing to such a flight would allow for the elimination of concern existing in Ukraine regarding military activities being carried out by Russia," he said.

The Open Skies Treaty is a multilateral international agreement signed by representatives of 23 OSCE states in Helsinki on March 24, 1992. The treaty introduces the open sky regime, the purpose of which is to ensure the possibility of participants to conduct flights over other territories. Russia ratified the Open Skies Treaty on May 26, 2001.

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