Russia says its planes warded off a NATO jet during a flight carrying its defense minister on Tuesday.
According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RE/RFL) report, Russian news agency TASS said that a flight on Tuesday from the Kaliningrad exclave to Moscow, carrying defense minister Sergey Shoygu, was approached by a NATO McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, in international airspace.
Shoygu’s plane was being escorted by two Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO reporting name: Flanker) Russian naval jets, and it was these which TASS says “chased off” the NATO fighter. A TASS reporter was reportedly on board the plane carrying Shoygu. The latter had been attending a naval ceremony in Kaliningrad, it is reported.
BNS corroborates the story, citing English-language Russian TV channel RT.
Russia’s defense ministry published a video grab which it says shows the two planes in flight over the Baltic.
RFE/RL says a NATO official confirmed that a Russian aircraft escorted by at least one fighter jet had been tracked over the Baltic on the same day.
Kaliningrad’s location, cut off from the Russian “mainland” and sandwiched between two EU member states, Lithuania and Poland, means that flights to and from the exclave often come close to the coastline of Lithuania in particular. NATO jets are routinely scrambled from their base at Šiauliai in such cases.
Spanish air force (Ejército del Aire) F-18 Hornets are currently based at Šiauliai.
The news follows reports last week in the international media that RAF Eurofighter Typhoons based at Ämari, west of Tallinn, had intercepted a total five Russian planes in airspace close to Estonian waters that week. According to the Daily Mail, the number of such interceptions since the RAF took over NATO air policing duties at Ämari in May totals 16.