Finland Says Mi-8 Violated Its Airspace

HELSINKI, Finland -- A Russian helicopter briefly violated Finland's airspace Saturday along its southeastern border, the Finnish Border Guard said.

An Mi-8 helicopter, likely belonging to border guards, flew in Finnish airspace for a few minutes Saturday afternoon near the frontier town of Lappeenranta, said Lieutenant Colonel Pasi Tolvanen.

"At this stage, a good guess would be that it was a normal border patrol flight that strayed for some reason," Tolvanen said.

Finnish frontier officials informed Russian border guards about the incident, he said.

Tolvanen said the low-flying helicopter flew about 10 kilometers over the frontier zone and was seen by several local villagers.

The alleged violation came a few months after Finland and Russia agreed on steps to limit air violations following a spate of such incidents by Russian military aircraft -- mostly transports -- along the southern coast where the international airspace is narrow.

In September, Moscow apologized after one of its planes violated Finnish airspace and said it was unintentional. Similar incursions were observed in December 2007, April 2006 and August 2005. On Nov. 28, military officials from Russia, Finland and Estonia agreed on ways to avoid airspace violations in the region, including improving the exchange of information on flight plans and sharing technical details.