Italy, which is serving its first shift in NATO's Baltic air policing mission, will leave its fighter-jets in Lithuania longer than planned, while Belgium and Portugal will this year send their troops for training, Lithuanian Defence Minister Juozas Olekas said.
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Olekas noted the issues were discussed with his colleagues at the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

NATO Allies usually serve one four-month shift in the Baltic air policing mission, while Italy will stay in Lithuania for two shifts, said the Lithuanian minister.

"The Italian minister pledged that they will stay as mission support after their air policing mission," Olekas told BNS.

Italian airmen with their four Eurofighter Typhoon fighter-jets came to the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania, in the last days of 2014 and were soon joined by Polish aviators with their four MiG-29 fighter-jets.

Countries of the Alliance started sending their fighter-jets and contingents to guard the Baltic skies after the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO in March 2004.

Prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea, the air policing mission was carried out by four jets from Šiauliai, while the mission in Lithuania was doubled last year, with fighter-jets also stationed in Estonia and Poland.

In Olekas' words, Belgian and Portuguese troops will also come to Lithuania for a longer training this year. A company of US troops has been permanently stationed in Lithuania since last year, and arrival of US military equipment is being coordinated.

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