According to Russian news sources, the airport at Saint Petersburg was temporarily shut down on the afternoon of Feb. 28 (local time) and jet fighters were scrambled to respond to an “unidentified flying object” intruding on the airspace. The object was described by the Russian minister of defense as a large drone.
As reported by Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the defense ministry announced, “The Air Defense Forces on duty worked out the issues of detection, interception and identification of the intended target of the [airspace] violator, as well as interaction with emergency services and law enforcement agencies in the event of an emergency.”
In what the defense ministry described as “exercises,” at least five military aircraft, including a Mikoyen MiG-31 and a Sukhoi Su-35, tracked the intruding aircraft, first detected “in the direction of the Gulf of Finland” about 112 miles from St. Petersburg, which is about 550 miles from the Ukraine border. Some news reports blamed NATO for the incursion.
News sources reported that Russian aviation authorities implemented the “Carpet” procedure in the surrounding airspace, requiring that all aircraft land, with the exception of military or rescue planes. The measure is said to be reserved for situations where unidentified objects are detected within Russian airspace or “when using weapons and military equipment of the [Russian Federation] Armed Forces against the intruder aircraft.”