December 11, 2014 / 9:29 PM / in 3 years

Poland says Russian maneuvers in Baltic unprecedented

WARSAW (Reuters) - Russia’s military is engaging in an unprecedented amount of activity around the Baltic Sea, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Thursday.

Poland's Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office at the Ministry of Defence in Warsaw April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The minister said that Poland, a member of the NATO defense alliance, was not under threat of attack and the Russian maneuvers were most likely designed to test how NATO forces in the region reacted.

NATO says its patrols in the region have seen heightened activity by Russia’s military, especially its aircraft, since the beginning of the standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula earlier this year, NATO has also beefed up air patrols of the Baltic region and moved soldiers and equipment to eastern Europe for exercises.

Moscow says by stepping up its presence on Russia’s borders, the alliance is further fuelling tensions. The alliance says those measures are to reassure its eastern European members, who fear they could be Russia’s next target.

“Over the past few days we have seen unprecedented activity by the Russians in the Baltic Sea, both the Baltic fleet and Russian aircraft,” Siemoniak told Polish broadcaster TVN24.

“We are concerned about that. NATO is trying to prepare some kind of reaction,” he said, without saying what form that response would take.

“We are not under threat of attack. These activities don’t have the character of preparing for an attack.”

Reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Larry King

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