The Russian military is set to send a 16-strong team on a surveillance flight over Finland, taking high-resolution images.
Under the terms of the 2003 Open Skies treaty, which aims to promote transparency and openness in Europe, Russia has the right to fly these sort of missions as long as they are announced and agreed beforehand.
This year the Russian military will conduct their flight between 2nd and 9th September, accompanied on board by a Finnish military representative.
“When they are flying over here, we are on the plane with our navigation systems checking that it goes to plan” explains Major Antti-Ville Rusanen from Defence Command.
There are restrictions on what the Russians can do. For example, they can only fly 1400km inside Finnish airspace during the year which means although they could fly several missions to reach this limit, they’re more likely to fly just one trip.
“They come to Finland like any civilian aircraft, and every Open Skies airplane is certified and they need to have covers over the cameras. As soon as they land at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport the first thing we do is a cover check, that the covers are on. Then we take the covers off and we do the observation flight. Before their departure, the covers go on” Rusanen tells News Now Finland.
“When they arrive in Finland and depart from Finland they can’t do any filming” he adds.
Under the terms of the agreement Finland also has the right to fly over 5000km of Russian territory taking their own surveillance images.
While Finland doesn’t have its own certified Open Skies plane, it can rent one from another country like Sweden or make joint surveillance flights.
“In 2019 Russia is flying over Finland once, but Finland will have a joint flight with other participating nations three times over Russia. It’s openness, transparency and confidence building” says Major Rusanen.