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Moscow defends interception of US aircraft in Baltic Sea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker (file photo)

Moscow says it was right to intercept a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea since the Pentagon was flying a spy plane near the Russian border.

On Friday, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 jet came within about 30 meters (100 feet) of a US Air Force RC-135 over the Baltic Sea and performed a “barrel roll” over it, CNN reported, citing two US military officials in the Baltic Sea region.

“All flights of Russian planes are conducted in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Russia said the American jet had turned off its transponder signal which helps others identify it.

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

The Pentagon claimed the surveillance plane was flying in international airspace when the Russian jet approached in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner and had “the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved.”

A US RC-135 spy plane (File Photo)

This is while on Thursday, a Russian Mig-31 supersonic jet intercepted a US Navy P-8 spy aircraft over Russia’s Far East.

The Soviet-era Mig-31, which is known as the world’s fastest supersonic jet, flew within 50 feet of the P-8, performing maneuvers that Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for the US Pacific Command, said were “safe and professional.”

Tensions between Russian and American military forces surged earlier this month after two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplanes performed “simulated attack” passes over the USS Donald Cook destroyer in the Baltic Sea.

Moscow accused the US of intimidation by sailing the Cook close to Russia's border in the Baltic, warning that the Russian military would respond to any future incidents.

NATO has been deploying more troops and equipment to the Baltic States-- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania-- to counter what the US-led military alliance calls “Russian aggression.”

The Baltic nations, which joined NATO in 2004, have asked the Western military alliance for a permanent presence of battalion-sized deployments of its troops in each of their territories, although Moscow denies any intention to attack them.

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