Finland warns Europe is 'at the gates of a new cold war' in wake of Russian military activity

British jets had to ‘escort’ Russian bombers away from UK airspace twice in three days last week

Finland’s president has reportedly warned that Europe is on the brink of “a new kind of cold war” in the wake of apparent military aggression from Russia.

Sauli Niinisto said the US and EU were failing to take Vladimir Putin’s actions seriously, even after he annexed Crimea and after repeated reports of Russian involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Advisers to the Russian President have previously warned that Putin wants to “regain Finland”, and speaking from his official residence in Helsinki Mr Niinisto said his country would be “very decisive” in response.

In recent weeks “provocative” Russian jets have been intercepted in operations involving RAF Typhoons, Finnish Hornets, Swedish surveillance planes as well as US and Canadian jets off Alaska.

Mr Niinisto told the Guardian the combination of Putin’s anti-Nato rhetoric and his air force’s behaviour represented “a situation that is not promising”. “I have said we are almost at the gates of a new kind of cold war,” he said, which had the potential to involve the entire of Europe.

The Finnish president’s comments came before a conference in Helsinki that will involve various northern European leaders, including David Cameron.

And he spoke after the MoD confirmed British jets had intercepted a Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bomber that was “approaching UK airspace” for the second time in three days.

It was intercepted by fighter jets from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and “escorted” out of British-monitored airspace on Friday.

A spokesperson from the RAF said: “Following a similar incident on Wednesday 29 October, the RAF Typhoon pilots visually identified the Russian aircraft and escorted them through the UK flight information region.”

That and other recent events led Nato to warn of an “unusual level” of Russian military activity in European airspace.

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