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SOFIA, July 27 /TASS/. Russian military aircraft have violated international rules while flying over the Black Sea, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry has insisted.
"Russian aircraft turned off their transponders [communication devices that allow an airplane to be located] and flew without identification marks and without any preliminarily announced flight routes documented by the Bulgarian Air Force and the NATO anti-aircraft defense system," the Bulgarian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry however said that the information had got nothing to do with the violation of Bulgaria’s airspace.
"The Bulgarian Defense Ministry does not argue the right of planes of any foreign Air Force to fly in international airspace over the Black Sea, including the region which is under Bulgaria’s control [FIR Sofia] if all international flight norms are observed. The Bulgarian Defense Ministry is not looking for confrontation with anybody," the ministry said in its statement.
Bulgaria and Russia started exchanging accusations last Sunday, July 24, when Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev said that Russian military aircraft had violated "Bulgaria’s zone of responsibility in NATO airspace" four times in the past month.
Bulgaria demanded explanations from Moscow calling the incident a provocation against Bulgaria and its armed forces. "We are taking preventive measures," the Bulgarian defense minister stressed.
On July 25, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov denied any such violations and said that Russian military aircraft followed international rules and always kept their transponders on. He added that the Russian Defense Ministry had not received any official inquiries from Bulgaria.
"The planes of Russian Aerospace Forces make planned regular flights over the Black Sea. Their flight routes strictly comply with international rules of using the airspace over neutral waters. Besides, all the planes, which have recently made the flights, including the month of June, had their transponders on," Konashenkov said.
Bulgaria, a former Soviet ally, joined NATO in 2004.