MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. A joint mission of the United States, Estonia and Lithuania will execute an observation flight over the territory of the Union State of Russia and Belarus between February 17 and 21, while Russian specialists will reciprocate by flying over Greece, Russia’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reports on Monday, citing chief of the Russian National Centre for Nuclear Risk Reduction Sergei Ryzhkov.

“Implementing the international Treaty on Open Skies, the Russian inspector group is planning to carry out an observation flight aboard a Russian An-30B observation jet over Greece. The observation flight over Greece will be performed between February 17 and 21 from the Open Skies airfield Nea Anchialos,” Ryzhkov underlined. “On the same dates, a joint mission of the US, Estonia and Lithuania will take off from the Kubinka airfield to carry out an observation flight over the member states [of the treaty] – Russia and Belarus – aboard a Swedish Saab 340 observation plane.”=

Developed with Moscow’s active participation, the Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002. It currently has 34 member states. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Observation flights are made over the territories of the United States, Canada, European countries, and Russia. Now, the treaty has more than 30 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.

The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations within the scope of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other relevant international organizations. Subsequently, it is contemplated to apply the open skies regime to new fields, such as environmental protection.

In practical terms, the treaty allows signatory states to perform observation flights over any part of the observed state party’s territory to monitor military activities in conformity with the agreed quotas of such missions. The treaty regulates observation flights procedures, establishes a mechanism of control over its observance, and sets requirements to the aircraft and observation equipment.

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