COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark is to send six F16 fighter jets to the Baltic countries Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to help patrol their airspace, Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said.
Patrols will begin on May 1 and will be part of an expanded NATO air policing mission to reassure eastern members of the alliance following Moscow's annexation of Crimea after a referendum in the peninsula on joining Russia from Ukraine.
"This is a signal especially to the Baltic countries that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them and of course also a signal to Russia that we take NATO seriously," Lidegaard said after a meeting of parliament's foreign policy committee on Thursday.
Since the Baltic states joined NATO in 2004 several members of the alliance have made aircraft and personnel available to monitor and enforce sovereignty of their air space.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that NATO needed to boost its presence in eastern European countries that feel vulnerable to Russia after the Crimea annexation.
Moscow says the people of Crimea exercised their right to self determination.
(Reporting by Teis Jensen and Erik Matzen; Editing by Alison Williams)