China / World

NATO jet buzzes minister's plane

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-06-23 09:31

F-16 retreats after a Russian Su-27 showing its missiles

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS - A NATO F-16 fighter jet buzzed a plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as it flew over the Baltic Sea, but was seen off by a Russian Sukhoi-27 military jet, Russia said on Wednesday, an account partly disputed by NATO.

The Baltic region has become a hot spot for Russia-NATO confrontation as the US-led alliance is increasing its military presence in the area near the Russian border. Earlier this month, Russia scrambled a fighter jet to intercept a nuclear-capable US B-52 strategic bomber it said was flying over the Baltic, in an incident that had echoes of the Cold War.

A video of Wednesday's incident broadcast on a TV channel run by the Russian Ministry of Defense showed an F-16 flying parallel with the minister's plane at a short distance. It was not clear which air force the F-16 belonged to.

A Russian Su-27 fighter jet was then seen inserting itself between the F-16 jet and the minister's plane before tilting its wings from side to side to show the missiles that it is carrying. The F-16 was then seen leaving the area.

NATO said it had tracked three Russian aircraft over the Baltic on Wednesday, including two fighter jets which it said did not respond to air traffic control or requests to identify themselves.

"As is standard practice whenever unknown aircraft approach NATO air space, NATO and national air forces took to the sky to monitor these flights," a NATO spokesman said in a statement.

The alliance said it had no information about who was on board the planes.

Shoigu's plane had been en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad for a meeting to discuss how well Russia's western flank was defended. Footage of what happened was filmed by someone on Shoigu's plane.

At the meeting, he warned that "the situation near Russia's western borders is tending to get worse", the ministry said on its website.

"This is tied with the upsurge of military activity of NATO countries in Eastern Europe," Shoigu added.

The RIA news agency reported that NATO aircraft had also tracked Shoigu's plane when he returned after his meeting later on Wednesday, albeit at a greater distance.

The Kremlin referred questions about the incident to the Defense Ministry, which did not immediately comment. It has said in the past that all Russian flights over the Baltic are conducted in strict accordance with international law.

The encounter came shortly after Russia scrambled an Su-27 aircraft to consecutively intercept two US RC-135 reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea's neutral waters on Monday.

Russia accused one of the US planes of performing a provocative maneuver against its fighter during the intercept, but the US side denied the accusation and blamed the Su-27 for being too close to its plane.

The Pentagon disputed that, saying the US aircraft "did nothing to provoke this behavior".

Reuters - Xinhua - Afp

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