Russia claimed today that one of its fighter jets forced a British spy plane to change course as it approached annexed Crimea.
The Moscow Defence Ministry announced that a British RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft ‘tried to approach the state border of the Russian Federation in southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula,’ before it was forced to divert by a Russian Su-30 fighter.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry, said: ‘About 19 miles from the Russian Federation state border, the Su-30 approached the reconnaissance aircraft, after which the British plane changed course away from the Russian border.’
Footage released this morning purports to show the incident in which the RAF Boeing aircraft was intercepted over the Black Sea south of the Crimea peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
It comes after the Kremlin had warned that the West was ‘playing with fire’ and vowed to bomb any warships that sail too close to the Crimea when British destroyer HMS Defender engaged in a dramatic stand-off with Russian vessels in the Black Sea in June.
Western nations, including the US, maintain that Crimea is occupied Ukrainian territory – an assertion that continues to be a point of geopolitical tension.
The MOD has been contacted for comment.
The British spy plane can be seen at the top of this image taken from the on-board camera of the Russian Su-30 fighter jet
The Russian Ministry of Defence said the RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft ‘tried to approach the state border of the Russian Federation in southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula’ over the Black Sea before it was intercepted
Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry, said the incident took place ‘about 19 miles from the Russian Federation state border’
The Ministry also declared it had observed an ‘increase in the military activity of the United States and its NATO allies in the Black Sea region.
The ministry described the unscheduled drills as ‘aggressive US actions posing a threat to regional security and strategic stability.’
In 24 hours, four NATO reconnaissance planes were detected and escorted by the Russian anti-aircraft missile forces, the ministry noted.
Earlier this year, Moscow boasted that a Su-24 dropped four bombs in the path of HMS Defender and fired warning shots from a patrol ship after the British vessel was ordered to change course for sailing too close to Crimean shores.
The Royal Navy meanwhile insisted the ‘freedom of navigation patrol’ took it through international waters, and that Russia is trying to illegally claim ocean beyond its 12-mile territorial waters.
The MOD later claimed that no warning shots had been fired by Russian vessels.
The UK’s cabinet minister George Eustice told Sky News: ‘Under international law you can take the closest, fastest route from one point to another. HMS Defender was passing through Ukrainian waters, I think on the way to Georgia, and that was the logical route for it to take.
‘This is a very normal thing, it’s quite common actually. What was actually going on is the Russians were doing a gunnery exercise, they had given prior notice of that, they often do in that area.
‘So, I think it’s important people don’t get carried away.’
The stand-off was the first time since the Cold War that Moscow said it had used live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting the growing risk of military incidents amid soaring tensions between Russia and the West.
Many Western countries do not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea by military force as being legitimate in law.
The interception of the spy plane (pictured) comes after the Kremlin had warned that the West was ‘playing with fire’ and vowed to bomb any warships that sail too close to the Crimea when British destroyer HMS Defender engaged in a dramatic stand-off with Russian vessels in the Black Sea in June
Moscow said a Su-24 dropped four bombs in the path of Britain’s HMS Defender (pictured) earlier this year after warning shots were fired when the vessel sailed close to Crimean shores
Russia released footage filmed from one of its Su-24M attack jets which purportedly showed HMS Defender sailing off Crimea – but not the moment it alleges shots were fired and four bombs were dropped. Britain meanwhile maintained that said no such warning shots were fired
Then in October, a several US aircraft were buzzed by Russian fighter jets in another tense encounter over the Black Sea after the Kremlin announced Russian radar had detected ‘air targets approaching Russia’s state border’.
The incident, of which footage was released by the Kremlin’s defence ministry, appeared to show two US B-1B bombers and two KC-135 tanker planes that were refuelling them mid-air.
Russia said its planes ‘turned away’ the American aircraft from their border, before returning safely to base.
That encounter came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a huge set of war games around Crimea, involving simulated beach landings and bombing drills using jets.
Two US aircraft were escorted over the Black Sea by Russian fighter jets after diverting them away from the Crimean border in October