Russia denies military planes approached Canadian warship
MOSCOW - ReutersA Russian Defence Ministry official dismissed on Tuesday a complaint by Ottawa that Russian military aircraft had acted provocatively by flying near a Canadian warship sailing in the Black Sea.
Canadian Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said on Monday that Russian aircraft had on Sunday circled the frigate Toronto as it took part in a military exercise in the Black Sea.
Although the aircraft posed no threat, their actions were "unnecessarily provocative and risk escalating tensions even further", he said in a statement posted on his ministry's website.
Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted General-Major Igor Konashenkov, a senior Russian Defence Ministry official, as saying two Russian military aircraft - an SU-24 fighter jet and an AN-26 transport plane - had flown through the area on a routine flight but denied any provocative behaviour.
"The planes' flight path passed through the area where the Canadian naval ship Toronto was, but without making an approach on the foreign military vessel," he said.
Relations between Moscow and Canada, a member of the NATO military alliance, have been clouded by Ottawa's decision to impose sanctions on Russia over its role in the crisis in Ukraine and by tension between Moscow and NATO.
Russia has held several military exercises this year, including near Ukraine's border, that have contributed to the tensions with NATO.
A regional military official announced a new training exercise in Kamchatka in Russia's far east involving more than 40 aircraft, about 20 ships and more than 1,500 personnel, Interfax news agency reported.
He called it part of a "surprise check".