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Russia intercepts US spy aircraft near eastern border

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 MiG-31 fighter jet (file photo)

Russia says it has dispatched a fighter jet to intercept a US spy aircraft which was violating the country’s airspace, as reports said Washington was considering a military buildup in the Black Sea.

The Russian National Defense Control Centre said in a statement on Saturday that it dispatched a MiG-31 fighter jet to “identify the air target and prevent violation of the Russian state border.”

The US spy plane, identified as aircraft RC-135 of the US Air Force, was seen from the cockpit of the Russian warplane off the coast of the Kamchatka peninsula, it added.

The Russian fighter escorted the US plane from the Far Eastern state border and safely returned to the airbase, the center said.

According to the statement, the Russian flight was carried out “in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace.”

Despite Russia’s repeated warnings against the violation of its airspace, US-led military alliance, NATO, has intensified its activities near the Russian border at the end of last year.

The latest intrusion of the Russia airspace, came as media reports said the US was considering deploying its warships to the Black Sea in coming weeks.

Citing anonymous US defense officials, CNN reported on Friday that through the military buildup, Washington seeks to send an explicit message to Moscow that the US is “closely watching,” its activities.

The report also confirmed that the US Navy is continuing to fly reconnaissance aircrafts in international airspace over the Black Sea to “monitor Russian naval activity and any troops’ movements in Crimea” as reports said Russia was building up troops on the border with Ukraine.

Russia was reportedly sending more than 10 navy vessels, including landing boats and artillery warships, from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea to take part in naval drills near the country's borders with Ukraine.

Russian Defense Ministry said the fleet is moving to the area as part of the drills that involve approximately 15,000 personnel and will inspect combat readiness of the country’s naval forces by the end of this month.

The Russian military exercises came amid a spike in violence in the Russian-speaking eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces have fought a conflict that has killed 14,000 people since 2014 by Ukraine’s estimate.

According to the CNN report, Washington does not see the buildup of Russian forces on the Ukraine border as war posturing, but “if something changes, we will be ready to respond, said US defense officials.

The military buildup by the US and its close ally, Britain, has lately led to escalation of tensions between the West and Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned last week that the military buildup by the two countries is “gaining momentum,” which only risks further escalation.

She did not rule out the use of military measures by Moscow in response to missile threats from the US and Britain.

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