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Russia-Ukraine war: Russian jets scrambled following transit by US B-52 bombers in Baltic Sea

US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

The Russian defense ministry said its fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two United States B-52 bombers that flew toward the Russian border. The encounter followed last week’s incident where a Russian fighter jet downed a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea.

The Russian defense ministry said on Monday that a Russian Su-35 warplane was scrambled over the Baltic Sea when two US B-52 strategic bombers were spotted flying in the direction of the Russian border. However, the ministry said the fighter jet returned to the base when the bomber aircraft flew away from Russian territory.

This followed last week’s incident when a Russian fighter jet downed a US surveillance drone into the Black Sea in what would be the first direct military contact between Moscow and Washington since the invasion in February last year.

“On March 20, 2023, the radars of the air defense forces of the Western Military District on duty detected two air targets flying in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation over the Baltic Sea,” said the ministry, according to the Russian state media outlet TASS. The ministry stressed that the response was in line with international law.

Moscow presented state awards to the two pilots who were involved in the intercepting of the US MQ-9 reaper drone. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu praised the pilots’ achievement in preventing the drone from flying into an area near the annexed Crimea region, which Moscow has banned access.

Russia has accused the US of collecting intelligence in its surveillance flights that were given to Ukraine to use in the war. Moscow also went on to accuse Washington of provoking the drone incident by ignoring flight restrictions that were implemented to protect Russian territory.

Washington said it would continue to fly missions over the Black Sea in international airspace.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting is still taking place in the key eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and in recent days, Ukrainian forces have carried out a counterattack on the west of Bakhmut in Donetsk, according to the British defense ministry. In the intelligence update, the move by Ukrainian forces would likely ease the pressure on the H–32 supply route.

“Fighting continues around the town center and the Ukrainian defense remains at risk from envelopment from the north and south,” said the ministry.

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