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MILITARY

French NATO jet sent on Latvian intercept mission

A French NATO jet was scrambled Tuesday to intercept three unidentified aircraft over Latvian airspace, the Baltic state's defence minister said, as news reports said the planes were German.

“The French Mirage did its duty very well,” Latvian defence minister Artis Pabriks told AFP.

“Planes appeared on our screens which were unidentified and not responding. We were not too worried, but the principle is that there must be identification, so we followed the procedures,” he added.

The Mirage 2000C interceptor took off from NATO’s Siauliai airbase in Lithuania after three small jet aircraft were detected flying over neighbouring Latvia.

France currently holds the rotating duties of patrolling the airspace of ex-Soviet Latvia, Lithuania and fellow Baltic state Estonia, whose own air forces lack suitable aircraft for the job despite being NATO members since 2004.

The French jet successfully forced the unidentified aircraft to land at the Adazi military base in Latvia, where the pilots were held by police.

They turned out to be German civilians who had travelled via Poland and Lithuania who had not followed correct flight plan procedures, the Baltic News Service reported.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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