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Defense Ministry urges US to keep recon planes away from Russia or agree on flight rules

The maneuvers Russia’s Sukhoi-27 jet performed over the Black Sea on January 29 were safe, the Russian Defense Ministry said

MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry has advised the United States to either avoid sending its military planes to fly missions near Russian borders or to agree on their rules.

"The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain the reliable protection of Russian airspace. Should American pilots, knowing this fact, fall into depression or succumb to any phobias, we advise the US side to exclude these flight routes near Russia’s borders in the future, or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules," the Defense Ministry said. Russian top brass pointed to the Pentagon’s allegations about what was described as unsafe interception of an EP-3 US radio-electronic surveillance plane by a Sukhoi Su-27 jet over the international waters of the Black Sea near Crimea on January 29.

The Defense Ministry stressed that "similar maneuvers by NATO planes near Russia’s Aerospace Force planes over the Baltic, Barents, Norwegian and North seas cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews."

It pointed out that the Russian fighter’s maneuvers were standard and absolutely legal and safe. The Sukhoi-27 plane for more than two hours and twenty minutes prevented the US surveillance plane from approaching Russia’s air space near Crimea, so such a flight could not be called ‘interception,’ because the right term for it would be ‘escort’, the Defense Ministry said.

"We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet Bill Ellis with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia," the Defense Ministry said.

The Russian military believes that when it dispatches air pilots on reconnaissance missions in this part of the Black Sea the United States should keep in mind that they will encounter Russian fighters, and not Ukrainian partners, or supply all crews with updated maps showing the correct borders of Russia’s airspace.

"Also, we would like to draw attention to the fact that it takes Russia’s fighter planes just minutes to ‘intercept’ air targets approaching the state border with their transponders turned off. For this reason all actions by Russia’s Sukhoi-27 plane, which for more than two hours and twenty minutes prevented the US radio-electronic surveillance plane EP-3E from approaching Russia’s air space near Crimea should be correctly called ‘escort’," the Defense Ministry said.

According to earlier reports, Russia’s Sukhoi-27 jet on January 29 intercepted a US plane EP-3E Aries II, which was moving towards Russia’s border over the Black Sea. Throughout the incident the Russian jet observed all safety rules. The Defense Ministry said when the US surveillance plane set course away from the Russian border, the Sukhoi-27 jet returned to base.

The Russian Navy claimed that the interception was unsafe, because the Sukhoi-27 approached the EP-3 as close as five feet (about 1.5 meters) and then crossed the plane’s flight path, after which the EP-3 had to overcome turbulence created by the Sukhoi-27’s engines. The US side said the interception lasted for two hours and 40 minutes. The US Navy made public several videos claiming they showed Russia’s Sukhoi-27 flying next to its EP-3 plane over the Black Sea.