"The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain the reliable protection of Russian airspace," Moscow’s defence ministry said. “Should American pilots, knowing this fact, fall into depression or succumb to any phobias, we advise the US side to exclude these flight routes near Russia’s borders in the future, or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules.”
The Su-27 fighter jet came within 5ft of a US surveillance plane, forcing the aircraft, which was flying in international airspace, to end its mission prematurely, a US official said.
But the Defence Ministry hit back, saying “similar manoeuvres by Nato planes” near Russian aircraft “cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews”. It maintained the Su-27’s move was legal, describing its mission as an “escort” to the spy plane.
"We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet, Bill Ellis, with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia," a Defence Ministry statement warned.
It also suggested US pilots be given updated maps showing the correct borders of the country’s airspace, according to Russian news agency Tass.
The comments came in response to US State Department complaints of the Russian military’s “disregard” for “international norms and agreements”.
“We call on Russia to cease these unsafe actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, danger to aircrew on both sides, and midair collisions,” a statement said.
It said the Russian jet “engaged in an unsafe interaction with a US EP-3 [aeroplane] in international airspace, closing to within 5ft (1.5m) and crossing directly in front of the EP-3’s flight path”.
A number of near-misses have taken place over the Black Sea, where Russian, US and Nato forces operate in close proximity to one another.
Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014, and the US Navy has also increased activity in the region.
There have also been interactions between the US and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.
In December, two US F-33 stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.
The Pentagon has been contacted for comment.
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