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Eastern Europe

Poland raises concerns over 'unprecedented' Russian activity over Baltic Sea

Increased Russian military activity over the Baltic Sea has left several eastern European countries on edge. But Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak has assured: "We are not under threat of an attack."

Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Thursday that he was concerned by the extent of Russia's recent military action over the Baltic Sea.

"For a few days now, there has been unprecedented Russian activity, from its Baltic fleet to flights over the Baltic Sea," Siemoniak said.

Despite his concerns, Siemoniak added: "We are not under threat of attack. These activities don't have the character of preparing for an attack."

Baltic on edge

As well as reports of more than 30 Russian military aircraft in the Baltic region on Monday, two Russian bombers were also intercepted over the Baltic Sea by Dutch F-16 fighters.

Just a day later, Norwegian military said that one of its warplanes had a "near miss" with a Russian fighter which had ventured too close, north of Norway. Poland and other Baltic states including Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been on edge since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

Some eight months of conflict have ensued, which, according to the United Nations (UN), has claimed at least 4,300 lives and displaced close to a million people.

In an attempt to reassure concerned eastern European countries, NATO has deployed more aircraft, ships and personnel.

Ukrainian plea

A new ceasefire was introduced in war-torn eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, which appears largely to have reduced shelling. The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists, who have a stronghold in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, are yet to organize comprehensive peace talks.

The most recently planned talks on Tuesday in the Belarusian capital of Minsk were postponed without clear explanation.

During a visit to Australia on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pleaded with Russia to withdraw its troops from his country and near to the Ukraine-Russia border.

"Please stop the fire. Please release the hostages. Please withdraw your troops from my territory," Poroshenko said.

ksb/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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