20:33 GMT21 September 2020
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    The incident comes in the wake of weeks of intensified US and NATO reconnaissance activity near Russia's maritime borders, from the Barents and Baltic Seas in the northwest to the Black Sea in the southwest to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan in the Far East.

    A lone Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept a US spy plane near Russia's borders in the Black Sea, the Russian defence ministry announced on Saturday.

    According to the MoD, the foreign aircraft changed course after being approached by the Russian fighter, with the jet scrambled after Russian radars picked up an aerial target over neutral waters in the Black Sea flying toward the state border.

    The US plane involved was said to be a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II operated by the US Navy. The EP-3 is a signals reconnaissance version of the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance/anti-submarine aircraft.

    "After the US Navy aircraft turned away from Russia's border, the Russian fighter jet safely returned to its home airfield," the MoD said.

    Saturday's incident is at least the fourth time that a Su-27 has been sent to intercept a US military aircraft approaching Russia's border in the last week, with at least nine similar incidents reported to have taken place since the beginning of the month. Last week, the Russian military reported that over three dozen foreign military aircraft including unmanned drones had been detected operating near Russia's airspace between August 1 and 7.

    Moscow has warned that such regular flights by US and NATO aircraft near Russia's border poses the risk of accidental escalation. By comparison, Russian jets and bombers operate near US borders far less frequently, and typically stay at least 30 km away from the US border.

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