Russia intercepts and escorts French warplanes over the Black Sea

Kremlin warns France that ‘violations of the Russian Federation border are not allowed’

A French Air Force Rafale fighter flies above Tanagra military air base, north of Athens on February 4, 2021 during a joint military drill with Greece Air Force as part of French Air Force's mission "Skyros 2021". Greece and France signed a 2,5-billion-euro ($3 billion) warplane deal on January 25 as part of a burgeoning arms programme to counter Turkish challenges over natural gas resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean. The deal will see Greece buying 18 Rafale jets, 12 of them used, made by French firm Dassault.
 / AFP / Angelos Tzortzinis
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Tension between Russia and Nato is rising after three French warplanes were intercepted over the Black Sea.

Russia scrambled Su-27 fighters to intercept two Mirage 2000 jets and their accompanying KC-135 refuelling tanker on Wednesday as they approached the border, the defence ministry in Moscow reported.

The warplanes approached the French Air Force jets and escorted them over the Black Sea “in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace”, the Kremlin said.

“Once the foreign planes turned around and were no longer heading towards Russia's borders, the two Russian fighters returned to their base. Violations of the state border of the Russian Federation are not allowed.”

The Black Sea marks a geopolitical crossroads where Russian influence clashes with the West, with Nato member Turkey on its shores. Tension between Russia and the West has increased since 2014 when Moscow annexed the Crimea on the Black Sea from Ukraine.

The latest interception happened a day before Nato’s defence ministers met on Thursday to discuss troop numbers in Afghanistan, where Russia has been accused of offering bounties to the Taliban to kill US soldiers. There are suggestions that Nato, which has 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan, will maintain its forces beyond the May 1 deadline that is part of a conditional agreement between the US and the Taliban.

In June last year, four Russian bombers were intercepted 40 kilometres from the US border in Alaska, the Pentagon said. Two weeks earlier the Russian Defence Ministry released footage showing two US B-1 Lancer bombers intercepted while flying over the Baltic Sea and Black Sea close to Russia.

RAF jets are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian bombers flying over the North Sea.