Russia will perform observation flights over Germany and the Benelux Union — a politico-economic union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — under the Treaty on Open Skies from March 14 to March 19, a senior Russian defense ministry official told Tass news agency Monday. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Sweden will also jointly conduct an observation flight over Russia this week.
Russian officials will carry out observation flights over the Benelux countries and Germany on an Antonov An-30B aircraft from Germany’s Brussels and Ingolstadt airports, Sergey Ryzhkov, chief of the Russian defense ministry's National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, told Tass. These will be Moscow’s fifth and sixth observation flights over territories of the Treaty on Open Skies members in 2016, the report added.
Meanwhile, the British and Swedish joint mission will be performed from Kubinka air base near the Russian northwestern city by the same name on a SAAB-340B aircraft between March 14 and March 18, Ryzkhov told Tass. He added that Russian experts on board will control the use of surveillance equipment and observation of treaty provisions.
On Sunday, the U.S. and France were expected to complete a five-day observation flight over Russia as part of the treaty. The observation flight was launched from the Khabarovsk airfield in Russia on a U.S. OC-135B observation aircraft.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states. It was formed to develop transparency, monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements, and expand capabilities to prevent crises within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations. The treaty came into effect in 2002 with surveillance flights being conducted over Russia, the U.S., Canada and European countries.