British Fighter Jets Escort Russian Bombers Away From Coast Of U.K.
British fighter jets scrambled from their base on Wednesday after two Russian long-range bombers skirted the coast of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. The incident comes one day after British Foreign Secretary Michael Fallon warned about Russia's intentions in Europe.
According to the Guardian newspaper, British Typhoon warplanes escorted the Russian "Bear" bombers in international airspace, away from the U.K. The newspaper says the British defense ministry denied that the Russian military planes entered into British airspace.
The Guardian quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Moscow of "trying to make a point" and that London should not dignify it with "too much of a response."
The Daily Telegraph says Moscow is angry over comments made by Foreign Secretary Fallon. He warned that Russia presents a "real and present danger," and that President Vladimir Putin could employ the same tactics in the Baltic states that he's used in Ukraine. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all former Soviet republics, are now members of NATO.
The Telegraph says Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, called Fallon's comments "absolutely unacceptable" and went beyond "diplomatic ethics."
This is not the first time British fighter jets have been scrambled to ward off Russian aircraft. The Guardian says it happened about eight times in 2014. The newspaper says Moscow's ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Office after Russian military aircraft flew over the English Channel, presenting a danger to civilian aircraft.
Several other Western nations have reported Russian bombers flying close to or in their airspace recently. At least twice last year, U.S. airspace was approached. In June, four Russian bombers entered the U.S. Air Defense Zone near Alaska, near the Canadian border. Three months later, two American jets intercepted six Russian military planes in the same area.
In March, a commercial airliner was just taking off from Copenhagen when pilots saw a Russian military aircraft in their path and had to maneuver around it. NPR's Michele Kelemen says a report looking into the incident found that the Russian aircraft had its transponder turned off. Michele quotes the Finnish ambassador to the U.S., Ritva Koukku-Ronde, as saying there have been violations of Finland's airspace since Russian military activity in Ukraine picked up. She describes it as "a testing of our reaction capabilities."
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