Russia denies flight of jet that intercepted US Air Force plane ‘unsafe’
MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse
AFP photoRussian Defense Ministry denied April 17 that a Russian jet that intercepted a U.S. Air Force plane earlier this week had acted unsafely, dismissing the Pentagon’s criticism, a second incident in the region between the Cold War-era foes in the past week.
The Pentagon said April 17 that a Russian SU-27 had flown in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner while intercepting a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane above the Baltic Sea on April 14.
“The entire flight of the Russian plane was conducted in strict compliance with international rules on the use of air space,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
“There were no emergency situations.”
Moscow said the SU-27 had been dispatched to identify an “aerial target travelling toward the Russian border at high speed.”
The aircraft detected by Russia was an American RC-135 plane, which the Pentagon said was conducting a routine flight.
When the RC-135 established visual contact with the Russian jet, the American plane “changed its flight route away from the Russian border,” Konashenkov said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said April 17 that the U.S. aircraft had “at no time crossed into Russian territory.”
“This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved,” Seal said.
“More importantly, the unsafe and unprofessional actions of a single pilot have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries.”
The incident came shortly after Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this past week, including an incident April 12 in which a Russian Su-24 flew nine meters above the war ship in a “simulated attack profile,” according to the U.S. military’s European Command.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the warship flyby earlier this week, saying it was “dangerous” and could have lead to a shoot-down.
Russia said that it had observed all safety regulations in its flights.
Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their post-Cold War nadir over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Kiev and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.