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Russian MIG-31 fighter jet carried out an ‘unsafe close pass’ of an RAF spy plane over Barents sea

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A Russian MiG-31 fighter jet made an ‘unsafe close pass’ of an RAF spy plane yesterday, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, after Moscow claimed the plane had infringed on its airspace. 

The RAF spyplane was flying over the Norwegian and Barents seas on Monday on a flight path which took it close to Russian territory, but at no point did the British aircraft enter Russian sovereign airspace. 

The MoD said the RC-135 spy plane’s crew maintained radio communications with Russian civilian air traffic control throughout its flight.

But Russia’s defence ministry refused to accept what it saw as an ‘intrusion’ and scrambled the MiG-31, which it said ‘drove the intruder out’.

‘We regard this action as a deliberate provocation,’ the Kremlin declared, adding that the Russian air force was instructed to ‘prevent the violation of the Russian border.’

‘All possible consequences of this deliberate provocation will lie entirely with the British side,’ the ministry said in a statement.

Russian MP Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the international committee of the Russian lower house of parliament and leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said: ‘A reconnaissance aircraft violated Russia’s state border near Cape Svyatoy Nos…

‘It looks like those who issue such absurd and provocative orders have forgotten how a British destroyer intruded into Russia’s territorial waters to be stopped by our border guards.

‘I am convinced that a response to any intrusions will be adequately harsh.’ 

Footage from Perm region of MiG-31BM and Su-34 scrambling and refueling used in Zvezda state TV’s report on the alleged interception of an RAF reconnaissance aircraft. Russia’s MiG-31BM fighter-interceptor, which it said intercepted a UK spy plane, is pictured here

The footage shows the planes refuelling in an undisclosed location. The Russian state media provided no evidence of the interception

The footage shows the planes refuelling in an undisclosed location. The Russian state media provided no evidence of the interception

Russian media channel share the route of RAF RC-135W plane, reportedly intercepted over the Barents Sea

Russian media channel share the route of RAF RC-135W plane, reportedly intercepted over the Barents Sea

Stock photo: A UK reconnaissance aircraft RC-135 is pictured over the Black Sea, photographed in December 2021

Stock photo: A UK reconnaissance aircraft RC-135 is pictured over the Black Sea, photographed in December 2021

An MoD spokesperson meanwhile told MailOnline today: ‘A Russian MIG-31 jet conducted an unsafe close pass of an RAF RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft as it carried out a routine operation in international airspace over the Norwegian and Barents Seas on Monday 15 August.’ 

‘The UK aircraft was in communication with Russian civilian air traffic control and its crew operated in a safe and professional manner.’ 

The MoD denied that the RAF aircraft ever entered Russian sovereign airspace, adding that the RAF aircraft later returned safely to its base in the UK.

Russia did not immediately show footage of the moment it alleged the RAF plane flew into its airspace close to remote Cape Svyatoy Nos in Murmansk region.

Instead, it highlighted a video of an evidently unrelated MiG-31BM and Su-34 drill from Perm region.

TV news bulletins were interrupted to flash the alleged British incursion on state TV channels. 

Footage from Perm region of MiG-31BM and Su-34 scrambling and refuelling used in Zvezda state TV's report on the alleged interception of an RAF reconnaissance aircraft

Footage from Perm region of MiG-31BM and Su-34 scrambling and refuelling used in Zvezda state TV’s report on the alleged interception of an RAF reconnaissance aircraft

Vladimir Putin (pictured in Moscow) often communicates through state-funded media such as Rossiya 1. The TV station said it scrambled a MiG-31BM fighter to force away an RAF spy plane which 'illegally crossed Russia's state border in the Arctic'

Vladimir Putin (pictured in Moscow) often communicates through state-funded media such as Rossiya 1. The TV station said it scrambled a MiG-31BM fighter to force away an RAF spy plane which ‘illegally crossed Russia’s state border in the Arctic’

Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov during a test in the White Sea, in this still image taken from video released October 7, 2020

Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov during a test in the White Sea, in this still image taken from video released October 7, 2020

Rossiya 1 channel announced: ‘Now an urgent report from the Ministry of Defence. A British RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft violated the state border of Russia over the Barents Sea.

‘Air defence crews on duty detected an unknown air target. A MiG-31BM fighter was scrambled to intercept it. Its crew drove the intruder out of our airspace in the area of Cape Svyatoy Nos.’

The RC-135 reconnaissance plane was described as a ‘radioelectronic warfare aircraft’ in the Russian media.

A map showed the purported route of the British plane to the Arctic from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

The coastline in Murmansk region includes the headquarters of Russia’s Northern Fleet and secret multiple military bases and facilities.

It also includes testing locations for Vladimir Putin’s hypersonic weapons.

Russian reports said it was rare for NATO planes to ‘breach’ Russian air space.

Russia has previously accused Britain of breaching its territory when this was disputed by the UK Defence Ministry.

No concrete evidence of an aerial border breach was provided by the Russians.

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