Row over 'near miss' between Russian military jet and Scandinavian Airlines passenger plane

Swedish air force describes the encounter as 'pretty serious'

Jon Stone
Sunday 14 December 2014 13:10 GMT
A SAS plane coming in to land
A SAS plane coming in to land (Creative Commons / Andy Mitchell)

A row has broken out between Russia and Sweden after claims that a Russian intelligence jet nearly collided with a passenger plane over the Baltic Sea.

Swedish officials said the Russian military plane had turned off its transponders in order to avoid commercial radar and that it had nearly hit another plane belonging to the Scandinavian airline SAS.

A spokesperson for the Russian defence ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, however said the two planes were never less than 42 miles apart.

He added that the military plane, which was flying in international airspace, was operating in compliance with rules and at a safe distance from civilian air passenger routes.

"There were no prerequisites for an air accident," he said in a statement, adding that a NATO warplane had been flying between the Russian jet and the commercial aircraft.

Sweden's air force chief, Maj. Gen. Micael Byden, described the incident as “pretty serious”.

The commercial flight was immediately ordered to change course when the plane was detected, he said.

The Swedish general said the incident was not as serious as one which took place in March during which a Russian plane without transponders is said to have come within 100m of an SAS plane outside Copenhagen.

Western countries say Russia has increased its military presence in the Baltic Sea after amid tensions with the West over the Ukraine conflict.

NATO also conducts air patrols over the Baltic. The Russian spokesperson said the number of flights by NATO warplanes along Russian borders has tripled in recent months.

Scandinavian Airlines is jointly owned by the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish states, with some shares also owned by private investors.

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