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Russian jets turn French warplanes away over Black 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 French Rafale fighter jet (file photo)

Russia has scrambled military aircraft to escort French fighter jets flying over the Black Sea.

Citing the Russian Defense Ministry, RIA news agency said Su-27 warplanes were scrambled Wednesday to intercept and accompany the Rafale and Mirage-2000 jets, as well as a French Air Force C-135 tanker aircraft, over the territorial waters. “Russian fighter crews identified the aerial targets as two tactical fighters.”

According to the ministry, the Russian aircraft safely returned to their base after turning away the French jets from the country’s border.

NATO has been beefing up its military presence in the Black Sea region amid tensions between the US-led military alliance and Russia over Ukraine. The United States, its NATO allies and Ukraine accuse Moscow of massing troops near Ukraine's border for a possible invasion. Russia says there is no such plan, but it has warned against any provocation from Ukraine that could trigger such an invasion.

Moscow also says Washington is involved in aggressive moves in the Black Sea, where Ukraine and the US have held military drills recently.

In a similar incident last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had scrambled fighter jets to escort two US military reconnaissance planes over the Black Sea. According to Rosaviatsia — Russia’s federal air transport agency — an increase in flights by aircraft belonging to the US-led military alliance in the region was creating risks for civilian planes and that Moscow planned to lodge a diplomatic complaint in that regard.

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