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U.S. Reports Another Close Call With Russian Warplane Over Baltic Sea

  • RFE/RL

A Russian Su-24 attack aircraft buzzes a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 12.

A Russian Su-24 attack aircraft buzzes a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 12.

The U.S. military says there has been another close encounter between a Russian warplane and a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea – the second such incident within a week.

U.S. Navy Captain Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command, told CNN that the latest incident took place on April 14 when a Russian Su-27 fighter jet "performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers" dangerously close to the U.S. plane during a routine flight in international airspace.

He said the Russian jet barrel-rolled near the U.S. RC-135, coming within 16 meters of the U.S. plane’s wing tip.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on April 17 that the Su-27's flight "complied with international regulations."

Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said the Russian fighter took off to identify "an unknown aerial target which was heading at a great speed toward the Russian border" and "flew around" the RC-135.

On April 12, two Russian Su-24 warplanes buzzed a U.S. guided-missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea.

That incident prompted condemnation from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who accused Russia’s military of a "dangerous" and "reckless" provocation.

Kerry said on April 14 that the U.S. warship, which was in international waters, could have shot down the Russian Su-24 fighter jets under rules of engagement.

Kerry said on April 14 that he was communicating with officials in Moscow in the hope that such a close encounter would not be repeated.

Russia’s Defense Ministry defended the actions of those Russian pilots, saying they had respected all safety rules.

U.S. military officials said the Russian warplanes were not armed, but flew so close to the USS Donald Cook and at such a low altitude that they created a "wake in the water."

Reducing the risk of deadly military confrontations is on the agenda of NATO and Russian diplomats due to meet in Brussels on April 20.

The meeting will be the first of the NATO-Russia Council since June 2014 when NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Moscow over its illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, CNN, and TASS
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