Leaders forced to abandon presser when jets behind them are scrambled

Spain and Lithuania’s leaders are forced to abandon press conference when NATO jets behind them are scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft

  • Podiums set up inside a hangar in front of two Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons
  • Suddenly a commotion erupted during the live broadcast on Thursday morning 
  • Footage showed a pilot darting up a ladder behind Lithuanian President Gitanas
  • Ground crew rushed around world leaders and slammed doors into the hangar
  • ‘Scramble,’ someone was heard saying from the press pack as a Spanish air force officer approached PM Sanchez to ask him politely to clear out of the way 

A news conference at a NATO air base with the leaders of Lithuania and Spain was abruptly cut off today when a pair of fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian aircraft flying without warning over the Baltic.  

Podiums set up inside a hangar in front of two Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons were cleared aside by airmen in jumpsuits as the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda was delivering remarks beside Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Live footage showed a fighter pilot darting up a ladder to get into the cockpit behind Gitanas as ground crew rushed around the fighter jet, slamming doors and clattering around the hangar in Siauliai Air Base. 

‘Scramble,’ someone was heard saying from the press pack as a Spanish air force officer approached PM Sanchez to ask him politely to clear out of the way. 

A Spanish pilot is seen leaping into the cockpit of the Eurofighter Typhoon as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda hold a press conference in a hangar at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania

A Spanish officer ushers the pair away as a pilot is seen getting into the cockpit at the Nato base 

The Lithuanian president was able to see the funny side of it and had a broad smile on his face as airmen started dismantling the flags and podium set up behind him

The two leaders look to their right as air crew scramble around the fighter jets behind them

The pair appeared momentarily unsure of what was going on around them as they tried to continue speaking

The Spanish PM and the Lithuanian president watch as the jets are scrambled to the Baltic Sea to monitor the Russian aircraft

A pilot is seen inside the cockpit of a Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon after the press conference at the NATO base in Lithuania was interrupted by Russian fighters in the Baltic

Nauseda briefly continued speaking, until he and Sanchez were led aside. The podiums and flags were removed and media dispersed to clear the way for take-off.

Spanish jets, based in Lithuania on a NATO mission to police Baltic air space, took off just before 9am reports that two Russian Su-24s fighter jets had taken off from Russia’s Kaliningrad region without filing a flight plan, said a spokesperson for the Lithuanian army’s joint chiefs of staff.

There was no danger to Sanchez or Nauseda, the Lithuanian president’s spokesman said. 

After the take-off, the news conference resumed, and Sanchez thanked the pilots ‘for the hard work they do to defend the territorial integrity of Lithuania as we just saw.’

Nauseda told public broadcaster LRT: ‘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.’

He added: ‘Thanks to Pedro (Sánchez), we have really seen how our air policing mission works.’

A Spanish pilot prepares for takeoff in the Eurofighter after two Russian Su-24s fighter jets took off from Russia’s Kaliningrad region without filing a flight plan

A member of the ground crew helps the aircraft leave the hangar as the press conference is cut short

Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Col. Dainius Guzas, left, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda, right, and Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, centre, pose for photographers during a visit to the military air force base at Siauliai

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, centre, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, right, speaks with Commander of the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission Lieutenant Colonel Bayardo Abos Alvares-Buiza, left

Seven Spanish Eurofighter jets have been based at Siauliai air base since April 30 for the Baltic air policing mission, which also includes four Italian F-35 aircraft at Estonia’s Amari air base.

The Baltic air police mission routinely follows Russian military aircraft flying over international waters over the Baltic Sea between the Russian mainland and the Kaliningrad enclave. The Russian jets often fly without filing a flight plan. 

The Russian Ministry of Defence said: ‘The flight was performed in strict accordance with international rules of using airspace and without violation of any country’s borders.’ 

Sánchez is on the final day of a three-day trip to the Baltic region and earlier met with officials in Estonia and Latvia. 

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