Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:5AM
A Russian Su-24 military jet flies over the Baltic Sea. (File photo by AFP)
A Russian Su-24 military jet flies over the Baltic Sea. (File photo by AFP)

Russia has denied claims of “unsafe” encounters between Russian military jets and a United States destroyer in the Black Sea.

The US Defense Department had earlier claimed that several Russian jets buzzed a US Navy ship three times on February 10 — the last day of a ten-day maritime drill by NATO in the Black Sea near Russia.

According to Danny Hernandez, a Pentagon official and a spokesman for the US European Command, three separate incidents occurred in the day, involving two Russian supersonic Su-24 attack jets along with an IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft and the US destroyer USS Porter.

However, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, General Igor Konashenkov, said on Tuesday that no such incidents had occurred.

Konashenkov said all Russian “flights were conducted and are being conducted over the neutral waters of the Black Sea in accordance with international rules and safety requirements.”

“If the US destroyer, as the Pentagon official claims, conducted a ‘regular’ patrol mission in the vicinity of Russia, tens of thousands [of] miles away from their own shores, it is strange to be surprised about the no less regular flights of our aircraft over the Black Sea,” he said.

US destroyer, USS Porter (L) and the Romanian naval ship ROS Marcellariu transit through the Black Sea during an exercise on July 14, 2015.

Hernandez, the US official, had said the three Russian aircraft flew in high speed and low altitude.

“USS Porter queried all aircraft and received no response,” he claimed. “Such incidents are concerning because they can result in accident or miscalculation.”

This is not the first time Washington is accusing Moscow of flying its military jets “dangerously” close to US warships patrolling near Russian borders. Back in April last year, the US Navy said two Russian aircraft flew simulated attack passes near a US guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea.

Russia has been concerned by years of NATO military buildup on its borders. The Western military alliance, a Cold War-era adversary of Moscow, is itself brandishing threats of Russian aggression to pile up military forces and hardware near Russia. Moscow has warned that it would take unspecified measures to respond to the increased activities.

Relations between the West and Russia have particularly soured since the Ukrainian conflict began in 2014.