Russia, Belarus Conducting Observation Flights Over Lithuania Under Open Skies Treaty

Arms control inspectors of Russia and Belarus are conducting observation flights over Lithuania under the Treaty on Open Skies, July 8-12.

The reconnaissance overflight are being conducted in an Antonov AN-30B “Open Skies” observation aircraft of the Russian Armed Forces equipped with digital cameras and other equipment. The mission is conducted from the Šiauliai Air Base.

Representatives of the Lithuanian Armed Forces will be on board together with the Russian ad Belarussian inspectors during the flight to ensure the agreed flight plan is followed and the observation equipment certified according to the Open Skies Treaty requirements are used.

This is the first overflight in Lithuania under the Open Skies Treaty this year. Last flight Lithuania hosted from Russian and Belarusian arms control inspectors took place in August 2017. Ukraine’s arms control inspectors are also planned to carry out a reconnaissance flight over Lithuania later this year.

The Seimas (parliament) of the Republic of Lithuania ratified the treaty on 9 December 2004 and the first observation flight over Lithuania was conducted in October 2005.

Treaty on Open Skies

The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force on January 1, 2002, establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. It currently has 34 party states.

Aerial reconnaissance flights on the basis of the Open Skies Treaty are conducted in order to verify that the arms control agreements in force are respected by the overflown country. The flights can be carried out over the whole territory of the country with only exception is for flight safety reasons (i.e, not for reasons of national security).

The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them.

The 34 state parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark (including Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it.

Russia uses Antonov An-30 and Tu-154M-ON monitoring aircraft for their observation flights. Russia is phasing out both An-30 and Tu-154M-ON and replacing them with two Tu-214ON with the registrations RA-64519 and RA-64525.

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