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The Russian Defense Ministry says it has scrambled SU-27 fighter jets to intercept US surveillance planes attempting to approach the Russian border over the Black Sea.
The ministry released a statement on Wednesday, stressing that the Russian jets had acted “in strict accordance with international flight rules.”
“On September 7, the US P-8 Poseidon surveillance airplanes tried to approach the Russian border twice… with their transponders off,” noted the statement.
Earlier, unnamed US officials claimed that the Russian jets had engaged in an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of the surveillance aircraft.
"They're up there for 12 hours and there are lots of interactions. But only one of the incidents was what the pilot determined was unsafe," one of the officials told Reuters.
The Russian statement noted that after the Russian jets neared the US planes to carry out visual identification, the US planes suddenly changed direction and drew away from the border.
It noted that the Wednesday intercept was the latest incident involving US spy planes flying over the region where Russia is engaged in the massive Caucasus 2016 military drills that kicked off on Monday.
The statement stressed that such actions were not necessary as Moscow had invited military envoys from some 60 countries, including NATO members, and over 100 reporters to attend the drills.
This is not the first time US intelligence aircraft have caused trouble near Russian airspace. In April, Russian planes cut off a US aircraft “rapidly approaching the Russian border." Following the incident, Russia’s Defense Ministry officially called on the US to refrain from sending planes towards it borders or at least "turn on transponders for automatic identification by our radars."
A Russian fighter jet was also forced to intercept a US spy plane flying over the Black Sea in another incident in January.