A very tense sequence. A Russian airliner was forced to change course to avoid a NATO spy device crossing its intended flight lane over the Black Sea, Russian authorities have reported. The spy plane “came down quickly”, crossing the route established for an Airbus of the company Aeroflot which flew between Tel Aviv and Moscow with 142 people on board, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency said on Saturday evening, quoted by the Interfax press agency.
Therefore, “the direction and altitude of the commercial flight were immediately changed,” continued the same source, adding that the crew of the spy plane did not respond to messages from air traffic controllers. According to Interfax, the Russian plane plunged 500 meters to keep away from the reconnaissance device and its pilots could see it from the cockpit. A private jet that flew to Skopje from Sochi, a Russian seaside resort, also changed its course because of the spy plane, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency.
“A risk of dangerous incidents involving civilian aircraft”
“The increased activity of the flights of NATO aircraft near the borders of Russia (…) creates a risk of dangerous incidents involving civilian aircraft”, denounced the agency, adding that it was going to “protest” through diplomatic channels. The nationality of the spy device was not specified. But Russian fighter jets were dispatched to the Black Sea region on Friday to escort two US reconnaissance planes, according to Russian media.
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The incident comes amid growing tensions between Russia and Western countries, which accuse Moscow of massing troops on Ukraine’s borders in preparation for an invasion. Russia denies any plan in this direction and accuses the NATO countries of increasing the number of “provocations”, notably with recent military exercises near its borders in the Black Sea.