U.S. and Russian air force jets have had a tense midair encounter in eastern Syria, with the Americans firing flares and deploying chaff in an effort to persuade the Russian jets to leave, the Pentagon says.
Russia's Defense Ministry on December 14 confirmed the confrontation near the Euphrates River, which took place a day earlier, and that the Americans had fired flares to "hinder the Russian jets."
The incident is the latest encounter between the two countries' air forces, who have been operating often in close proximity in Syrian airspace.
The Pentagon said in a statement that two Russian Su-25 fighters flew through an unofficial line along the river and F-22A Raptors launched warning flares and deployed chaff -- used to distract potential incoming missiles.
The flares were fired "in close proximity" to the Russian aircraft and the U.S. pilots also radioed the Russians multiple times on an emergency channel telling them to leave, the Pentagon said.
The Russian ministry said the Su-25 jets remained on the west side of the Euphrates -- as stipulated by an agreement reached with the Americans last month. The ministry said the U.S. jets left the region after another Russian jet, a Su-35C, arrived.
U.S. and Russian commanders have a dedicated hot line, in an effort to prevent the danger of outright hostilities between the military forces, which nominally share a common enemy -- Islamic State (IS) militants.
In fact, however, Russia's military has sought to bolster the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, while U.S. forces have backed antigovernment rebels and Kurdish and Arab militias that have battled IS fighters.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a visit to a Syrian air base that Russian forces had largely accomplished their goal in the country and ordered the beginning of a withdrawal.