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Russia intercepts US spy planes over Black Sea for fourth time in a week

RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force is seen over the Black Sea on July 30, 2020. (Photo by Russia's Sputnik news agency)

The Russian military has intercepted American spy planes over the Black Sea four times in the past week.

The Russian defense ministry said a Su-27 jet fighter buzzed two US reconnaissance aircraft on Thursday after they had approached the country’s border over the Black Sea.

The American spy planes were identified as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft and a Р-8А Poseidon maritime surveillance plane.

“The American reconnaissance planes were not allowed to breach the Russian Federation’s state border,” the ministry said in a statement.

A similar incident took place on Monday over the Black Sea. The Russian air force also escorted a Р-8А Poseidon plane away from the country’s airspace last Thursday and again on Friday.

American bombers and spy planes, as well as NATO aircraft, have frequently been spotted near Russia’s borders.

Moscow has time and again expressed its concern about the increasing presence and activities of the US-led NATO forces near Russia’s western borders.

The provocative flights have increased in frequency since 2014, when Crimea joined Russia following a referendum in which more than 90 percent of participants voted in favor of separating from Ukraine, and when the ongoing military conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out.

The West brands the reunification as annexation of Ukrainian land by Russia, which strongly rejects the allegation. In siding with Ukraine, the European Union has followed Washington's lead in leveling several rounds of sanctions against Moscow.

US marine veteran jailed in Russia over police assault

In a separate development on Thursday, a court in Russia sentenced a former US Marine to nine years in prison for assaulting two police officers while drunk last year.

Trevor Reed, a 29-year-old student, has been in jail since last year when he was arrested for the attack, which, according to the judge, had caused the two police officers to suffer "mental and physical harm.”

The court ruled that Reed's "state of intoxication" had played a decisive role in the incident and sentenced him to nine years in a penal colony.

Reed and his family denounced the verdict as "completely political" and vowed to appeal to the US government for political support.

Reed’s conviction follows the high-profile trial of another former US marine Paul Whelan, who received a 16-year jail sentence last month on espionage charges.

EU sanctions Russian intelligence over alleged cyberattacks

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) on Thursday levied sanctions on a department of Russia’s military intelligence service over suspicions of participation in major cyberattacks across the world.

The bloc said in a statement that the sanctions, which include travel bans and asset freezes, had targeted the department for special technologies of the Russian military intelligence service, known as Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The EU accused the Russian service of being behind two cyberattacks that hit several companies in Europe in June 2017 and resulted in large financial losses. The service was also accused of two cyberattacks against Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.

Brussels also targeted firms from North Korea and China over the same claim, with both countries rejecting any involvement in the cyberattacks.

China’s diplomatic mission to the EU said in a statement early on Friday that Beijing “is a staunch defender of network security and one of the biggest victims of hacker attacks.”

China intends global cyberspace security to be maintained through “dialogue and cooperation” and not by unilateral sanctions, the statement added.

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