Russia defends interception of US aircraft in Baltic Sea | News | DW | 30.04.2016
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Russia defends interception of US aircraft in Baltic Sea

Moscow's Defense Ministry has scolded the Pentagon for flying a spy plane near the Russian border. But Washington claimed it was flying in international airspace when a Russian jet approached in an "unprofessional way."

Russia's Defense Ministry on Saturday hit back at the US after a Russian SU-27 fighter intercepted a US Air Force RC-315 near the Russian border on the Black Sea.

"All flights of Russian planes are conducted in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace," the ministry said in a statement.

"The US Air Force has two solutions: either not to fly near our borders or to turn the transponder on for identification," it added.

However, the Pentagon said it had been flying a standard route in international airspace on Friday before the Russian warplane flew less than 10 meters (32.8 feet) away in an "unsafe and unprofessional way."

The incident is not the first time Russian jets have flown in close proximity to US military assets in the Baltic Sea.

Earlier this month, Russian warplanes "buzzed" a US naval destroyer in a maneuver that had the "potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions," said the US military's Europe Command (EUCOM).

Moscow's latest rebuke of the US' military presence in Eastern Europe comes as NATO vows to increase its presence in the former Soviet Union's sphere of influence.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all called for a permanent NATO presence in the Baltic region amid fears of Russia's growing military presence, including airspace incursions and Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

ls/tj (Reuters, DPA)