Russia warns passenger planes at risk of dangerous incident as US spy jets patrol sky

Russia invasion of Ukraine 'does look imminent' says Ellwood

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With tension building up over threats that Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine, Western allies have increased aerial surveillance in the area in a bid to gain intelligence on military manoeuvres being conducted by the Russians. The separate deployments of US Air Force RC-135, US Army Artemis and French air force Mirage 2000 aircraft underscore the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine.

NATO routinely flies surveillance aircraft along Russia’s borders.
But alliance air ops are intensifying over the Black Sea, according to Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency.

A statement by the agency read: “The increased intensity of NATO aircraft flights near the borders of the Russian Federation … creates the risk of dangerous incidents in relation to civil aircraft.”

The risk to civilian aircraft comes as NATO surveillance planes cross into the paths of passenger jets.

A statement from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency provided further details of the danger.

It said: “On the morning of 12/03/2021 at 09:53 am over the open waters of the Black Sea near the area of responsibility of the Russian air traffic services, the NATO CL-600 reconnaissance aircraft flew with an intensive descent from an altitude of 11,000 [m] to an altitude of 9,200 m, crossing the air traffic service route established for civil aircraft.”

It added: “The crew of the reconnaissance aircraft did not respond to repeated requests from air traffic services.”

In addition, the Russian aviation authorities announced their intention to send a protest through diplomatic channels, since “the above-mentioned flights of military aircraft without radio communications pose risks to the safety of civil aircraft in the Black Sea region.”

Last Friday, the crew of a Russian Aeroflot civilian flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow was directly involved in an incident.

The flight deck of the passenger plane received a command from the dispatchers to change the flight level since another aircraft was crossing the flight path.

The measures taken by the Russian air traffic controllers ensured the safe operation of flights over the open waters of the Black Sea.

With increased responsibility for the air traffic, controllers are worried that a collision could occur.

Furthermore, there is also the risk of a surface to air threat.

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In July 2014, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down above Eastern Ukraine.

All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.

A Dutch investigation into the incident concluded that Flight 17 was brought down by a Buk surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists.

In times of heightened tension, other such military mistakes have occurred.

Following the assassination of the top Iranian Commander, Lt. Gen Ghasem Soleimani by the Americans, Iran was on high alert following a missile strike on a US airbase in Iraq, resulting in the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner.

The French and U.S. governments both have warned Moscow that an attack on Ukraine could lead to serious consequences. In particular, potentially devastating economic sanctions.

Yesterday, at the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in Liverpool, British Minister Liz Truss used the opportunity to raise concerns over Russian intentions with Ukraine.

She said: “We need to defend ourselves from the growing threats from hostile actors and we need to come together strongly to stand up to these aggressors.”

Adding to the warnings against Russia, US President Joe Biden said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would pay “a terrible price” and face devastating economic consequences if it invaded Ukraine.

Mr Biden told reporters the possibility of sending U.S. ground combat troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion was “never on the table,” although the United States and NATO would be required to send in more forces to eastern flank NATO countries to beef up their defences.

He said: “I made it absolutely clear to President Putin … that if he moves on Ukraine, the economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating, devastating.”

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