WASHINGTON ― Russia began testing missiles with live munitions in the Baltic Sea on Wednesday, forcing countries to shut down airspace and alter sea traffic routes.
Russia’s Baltic Fleet based in the Kalinigrad exclave is performing the exercise, which is taking place within Latvia’s exclusive economic zone as well as parts of the western Baltic Sea.
Latvia, a NATO member, and Sweden have issued warnings to civilian air and sea traffic, closing certain travel lanes until the end of the exercise.
“It is a demonstration of force,” Latvia’s Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis told Reuters. “It is hard to comprehend that it can happen so close to (our) country,” he said.
According to Latvian officials, Russian drills have never taken place so close to its territory. However, Latvian officials acknowledged that Russia is not violating any international regulations and has a right to exercise.
“Drills lasting for three days in the region where there is very intensive aviation traffic, and given everything else that is happening in relations between the West and Russia, I think that it is a rather provocative action,” Latvia’s ambassador to Russia, Maris Riekstins, told Latvian Television.
On Wednesday Russia also kicked off the Moscow Conference on International Security, which will focus on the outlook of the Middle East following the defeat of ISIS in Syria.