Moscow is talking tough after being reprimanded by the United States over an "unsafe" incident in which a Russian military jet flew within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the Black Sea.
In remarks cited by Russian media on February 1 -- three days after the close encounter near Crimea, the peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 -- the Defense Ministry contended that the U.S. aircraft was in no danger.
"The Russian fighter's maneuvers on January 29 were standard and absolutely legal and safe for the U.S. surveillance plane," the ministry said.
WATCH: A video of the incident provided by the U.S. 6th Fleet
Repeating Moscow's claim that Crimea is now part of Russia and addressing a top U.S. Naval officer in the area, the ministry mockingly said that U.S. pilots flying in the area should expect to encounter Russian warplanes rather than Ukrainian ones.
"We would like to address the commander of Task Force 67 of the 6th Fleet, [Captain] Bill Ellis, with a reminder that Crimea is an integral part of Russia," the Russian media reports cited the Defense Ministry as saying.
Only a handful of countries have indicated that they consider Crimea to be part of Russia.
The incident on January 29 was one of the closest in a series of close encounters in which Russian jets have come close to U.S. and NATO aircraft and warships in recent years.
Washington says a Russian Su-27 engaged in an "unsafe interaction," coming within 1.5 meters of the U.S. plane and crossing directly in front of it.
Hours after the incident, the State Department called on Russia "to cease these unsafe actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, danger to aircrew on both sides, and midair collisions."
The U.S. Navy said Russian planes "must behave within international standards," adding: "Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions."
Such incidents have added tension to Russia's relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow's takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.
With reporting by TASS and Rossiiskaya Gazeta