Two Su-27 interceptors escorted two French fighters and a tanker aircraft away from Russian airspace over the Black Sea, the Russian military said, as video of the encounter in the sky appeared on social media.
The Southern Military District deployed the interceptors on Wednesday morning as the trio of foreign aircraft appeared on their radars, the National Defense Control Center (NDCC) said in a statement.
The two interceptors “identified the air targets as a group of French Air Force planes that consisted of a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker and two Mirage 2000 tactical aircraft and shadowed them over the Black Sea,” the NDCC said.
After the French aircraft turned away from their approach to the Russian airspace, the Russian fighters returned to base. Their flight was “in strict compliance with the international rules of using the airspace,” the NDCC added.
No violations of the Russian state border were allowed.
Wednesday’s interception comes amid increased activity of NATO aircraft and ships in the Black Sea, at the invitation of Ukraine. Last week, Kiev proposed to the US-led alliance to increase air operations in the “airspace over the sovereign territory of Ukraine and over open waters.” This was a reference to the Crimea peninsula, which separated from Ukraine and joined Russia in a 2014 referendum.
In 2020 alone, the Russian Defense Ministry detected an estimated 2,900 combat aircraft and 1,100 spy planes that approached the country’s airspace.
The air and sea incursions weren’t limited to just Europe. In November, the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain crossed the Russian maritime border near the Far East city of Vladivostok, only to be chased off by the Russian Navy destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.
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