NATO fighter jets, stationed in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai, were on Friday scrambled to identify and accompany a Russian maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The Il-38 was flying through international airspace over the Baltic Sea with its transponder switched off, Viktorija Cieminytė, spokeswoman for the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, told BNS.

"The aircraft was flying according to a pre-filled flight plan but with its transponder switched off," she said.

It was the first time this week that NATO fighter jets, carrying out NATO's Baltic air policing missions in Lithuania, were scrambled to accompany a Russian plane. There were two such cases last week and around 150 last year.

Italy and Poland are currently in charge of the Baltic air policing mission in Lithuania, with Spanish jets also stationed in Estonia and Belgian jets in Poland. The next country rotation will take place in May.

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