In the incident, a US Navy EP-3 Aries, a signals reconnaissance plane, was flying over international waters in the Black Sea when a Russian Su-27 air superiority fighter intercepted the plane, forcing it to veer off course. The video depicts the Su-27 flying past the Aries' camera.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the intercept was necessary to prevent the Aries from violating Russian airspace. "The crew of the fighter jet reported the identification of an American reconnaissance aircraft and accompanied the spy plane, preventing it from violating the Russian airspace while observing all necessary security measures," the ministry said in a Monday statement.
The US State Department slammed the interception as Moscow flouting international laws, accusing them of harassing an American plane over international waters. "While the US aircraft was operating under international law, the Russian side was flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law, in this case the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA)," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement.
"We call on Russia to cease these unsafe actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, danger to aircrew on both sides, and midair collisions." Nauert added that the incident is "the latest example of Russian military activities disregarding international norms and agreements."
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa also accused the Ruskies of creating a hazardous situation with their intercept. "On Jan. 29, 2018, a US EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27," the release said. "This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3's flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the SU-27's jet wash [the turbulence left in a jet's wake]. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes."
Moscow waved aside the charge that they had acted hazardously. "The Russian Su-27 fighter jet conducted the entire flight in strict accordance with international rules of the use of airspace. No extraordinary situations occurred during the intercept," they wrote in the statement.