Open Skies Treaty: Russia deploys Tu-154M-LK-1 military surveillance plane over Turkey

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Monday that the country will conduct a surveillance flight over Turkey on Feb. 25-28 in accordance with the Open Skies Treaty. Daily Sabah reported on Monday.

The flight will be carried out by the Russian surveillance plane Tu-154M-LK-1

"According to the head of Russia's National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, Sergei Ryzhkov, the Russian Federation plans to carry out an observation flight on Russia's TU-154M-LK-1 observation plane over the territory of the Republic of Turkey under the Open Skies Treaty," Russia-based Sputnik news agency quoted the statement as saying.

The flight is expected to start from Eski┼čehir Open Skies airfield with a flight range of up to 1,900 kilometers.

Signed in 1992, in Helsinki, the treaty enables all 35 participant states to have short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others' territories with an aim to collect data on military forces and activities.

This coming at a time when tension escalates and rifts deepens between Ankara and Moscow over the developments in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo, northern Syria, especially following the failure of technical and political negotiations between Russian officials and their Turkish counterparts.

Last week, Russian daily newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that Turkey prevented four Russian military aircraft, including two bombers, from crossing its airspace to Syria.

Field sources knowledgeable about the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, revealed on Thursday that the Russian forces brought in military reinforcements from the storage facilities of the Russian army to the airbase, in an indication that battles may intensify in north-western Syria.

The sources revealed to Al-Quds Al-Arabi the arrival of heavy shipments of modern Russian tanks and missile launchers, heavy artillery and anti-armour missiles, in addition to shipments of bombs and missiles used by Russian strategic bombers and fighters, as well as the bombs used by Sukhoi aircraft of various categories.

Russian reinforcements also included tanks, troop carriers and mechanisms used to lift dirt berms and build fortifications, as well as defensive barriers.
However, based on the Open Skies Treaty, Russian military will be conducting surveillance flight over Turkey. 

According to TASS reports, the aircraft will be strictly following the route earlier approved by Turkey and Turkish specialists onboard the plane will be controlling the use of the surveillance equipment and observation of the Treaty provisions, the military official stated.

Flights under the treaty are performed in order to ensure more transparency in military activity of the member-states and enhance security through confidence building measures," he noted.

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states. It entered into force in 2002. Surveillance flights are conducted over Russia, the United States, Canada and European countries.

The key tasks of the treaty are to develop transparency, monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements, and expand capabilities to prevent crises in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations.

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