Dramatic video shows the moment a press conference at a NATO airbase in Lithuania was cut short over an emergency alert due to reportedly inbound Russian jets. Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nauseda and Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez had been speaking at a high level briefing when the very NATO jets that served as their backdrop had to be scrambled in order to monitor the Russian jets’ movements in the area.
The Associated Press described of the unusual interruption: “Nauseda and Sánchez were speaking with two Eurofighter Typhoons behind them at the base in the town of Siauliai when security officials suddenly interrupted the leaders as crews scrambled to get on the fighter jets, live footage from the press conference showed.”
After the two leaders were rushed off with a pilot seen in the background jumping into the NATO fighter, staff quickly moved the flags and lecterns out of one plane’s path as it prepared to taxi for take-off.
The Lithuanian president was later quoted by a national broadcaster as saying, “Our press conference was interrupted by a real call….You see, everything works great. I can confirm that the fighter jets took off in less than 15 minutes” of receiving the alarm. “Thanks to Pedro (Sánchez), we have really seen how our air policing mission works.”
This suggests the possibility that the whole thing could have been a well-timed PR stunt, hyping the capabilities of one of NATO’s newest Baltic members (Lithuania along with Estonia and Latvia joined NATO in 2004) in a self-congratulatory moment.
Regardless, the whole thing was very unusual. Sánchez later said during the resumed press conference once the fighters departed the air base: “We have seen a real case of what usually happens that precisely justifies the presence of Spanish troops with the seven Eurofighters in Lithuania.”
Lithuania has lately become a central NATO outpost in the Baltics for ‘confronting’ Russia – the latter which frequently sends patrol jets across the region, especially in order to warn against further NATO encroachment along Russia’s western border.
As for Thursday’s strange press conference incident, NATO didn’t immediately confirm the identity of the foreign aircraft in the area, but media reports widely reported a Russian incursion in the Baltic area.