BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO aircraft tracked Russian strategic bombers over the Atlantic and Black Sea on Wednesday and sorties of fighters over the Baltic in what the Western alliance called an unusual burst of activity at a tense time in East-West relations.
In all, NATO said in a statement, its jets had intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft in about 24 hours since Tuesday, and some were still on maneuvers late on Wednesday afternoon.
"These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace," the alliance said.
A spokesman stressed there had been no violation of NATO airspace -- as there was last week when a Russian spy plane briefly crossed Estonia's border. But such high numbers of sorties in one day were, he said, rare in recent years.
A Norwegian military spokesman said a group of Russian planes had flown from Arctic bases as far as Portugal, staying over international waters but close enough to national borders to scramble NATO jets.
“We see Russian aircraft near our airspace on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see,” he said.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Balazs Koranyi; editing by Andrew Roche)