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Russian military ramps up flights near Western airspace

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Washington CNN —  

Russia unexpectedly flew military aircraft into the Baltic Sea region on both Saturday and Sunday, in an action closely monitored by U.S. and NATO intelligence, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN.

About a dozen Russian aircraft including bombers, and refueling aircraft flew off Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea on Saturday. NATO aircraft as well as aircraft from Sweden and Finland monitored the Russian flights, the official said.

Then on Sunday, the Russians again flew about a dozen aircraft including bombers and transport planes on the same route. The U.S. official noted there have been similar large flights in the past, but it’s not been seen in this manner over a two day period. The U.S. and NATO are still assessing what message Moscow may be trying to send, but overall “it’s a Putin show of force,” the US official said.

“This was a large incursion,” said Col. Steven Warren, Pentagon spokesman. The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace but did enter an aircraft identification zone at one point.

On Saturday, prior to the second round of flights, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby issued a statement saying, the Saturday flights were “significant.” Kirby said the Saturday flight was larger than what they’ve seen before but not considered threatening. “The overflight is doing nothing to ease tensions. But while it is bigger than what we’ve seen, it is not raising alarm bells in NATO,” Kirby said.

Related: NATO jets scrambled more than 400 times this year for Russian intercepts

Related: Unusual Russian flights concern NATO

Related: Do Russian provocations signal a new Cold War?

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