‘High Alert’ After Russian Jet Nearly Crashes Into Polish Plane

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A near-collision between a Russian military plane and a Polish aircraft has forced NATO to put its air police on “higher readiness,” a NATO official told The Daily Beast.

The incident occurred over the Black Sea near Romania on Friday, when the Polish aircraft was conducting a patrol as part of its responsibilities with Frontex, the European Union’s border agency. Frontex is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.

“NATO air policing detachments were put on higher readiness in response to the dangerous behaviour of a Russian military plane in the vicinity of a Polish Frontex aircraft over the Black Sea near Romania on Friday,” the official told The Daily Beast. “NATO remains vigilant.”

The official did not answer questions about what NATO assesses of Russia’s intent in the incident.

The Russian jet, a Su-35, made three “aggressive and dangerous maneuvers” toward the Polish plane, according to the Polish Border Guard. The Polish crew lost control and altitude as a result, the Polish Border Guard said on social media.

According to the crew’s assessment, the Russian plane was only five meters away at one point.

The units on higher level of readiness are Spanish aircraft assigned to the air policing mission in Romania, the NATO official said.

Russian aircraft frequently conduct unsafe and unprofessional flights near other countries’ aircraft, according to U.S. officials. Some of these maneuvers could lead to unintended escalation, according to U.S. officials. In March, that behavior began increasing, U.S. officials have said.

The news comes just weeks after a Russian Su-35 aircraft conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” with an American F-16 aircraft over Syria, according to the Pentagon. The latest incident also comes two months after a Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver, ultimately hitting a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. The U.S. Air Force aircraft, MQ-9, was completely downed after the incident given the damage it sustained.

In the MQ-9 incident, the Russian aircraft spewed fuel in front of the drone in a provocative move.

At the time, Russia denied it had acted unprofessionally and that it hit the U.S. drone. Russian officials said the drone fell after making a sharp maneuver and claimed it was flying towards Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

John Kirby, a White House National Security Council Coordinator, said at the time that these kinds of moves will not deter the United States from operating over the Black Sea even as Russia continues to wage war in Ukraine.

“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, then that message will fail… we are going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters,” Kirby said in March.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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