PHOTOGRAPHS released by the US Pentagon show a Russian fighter jet flying within touching distance of an American spy plane as tensions escalated between the two nations.
The US accused Russia of carrying out an unsafe intercept of its RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft but Moscow has hit back saying its SU-27 jet was “provoked”.
The near-miss occurred in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Monday – approximately 25 miles north west of the Russian enclave Kaliningrad where US-led Nato troops have been amassing.
US officials blasted the encounter as “unsafe” because of the Russian pilot’s “high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft”.
US Navy spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis, said: “Russia is certainly within its right to exercise within international airspace, but we want them to respect international standards for safety to prevent accidents.
“The vast majority of interactions we have, intercepts that occur when we fly and that are intercepted by the Russians are safe.
“This is an exception, not the norm, but we were again operating in international airspace and did nothing to provoke.”
However, the Russian government has disputed these claims, saying the US Air Force RC-135 aircraft made a “provocative” move towards their SU-27 fighter jet as it intercepted two American planes “flying towards the Russian state border”.
NATO aircraft are being deployed as part of the organisation’s annual Baltic Operations, a multinational, maritime-focused live training event which first began in 1972, in the region close to Russia’s border.
There have been over 30 interactions between Russian and US aircrafts and ships close to the Baltic Sea since the beginning of the month, according to CNN.
The incident has come amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow after the US downing of a Syrian jet which targeted American-allied rebels.
In response, Russia – an ally of the Syrian government – warned US jets flying in Syria would be treated as targets.