Russian President Vladimir Putin.(file photo) Photograph:( AFP )
Russia alleged that actions of US Air Force threatened civil aviation
Russia said on Sunday that a US spy plane nearly caused a 'mid-air' collision with a Russian commercial flight. Moscow said that that the 'catastrophe' was avoided when the Russian plane dived to avoid the collision.
On Friday morning a NATO CL600 reconnaissance aircraft descended rapidly in airspace above Black Sea. The descent took place across the planned route for Aeroflot passenger plane. The commercial plane was going from Tel Aviv to Moscow and there were 142 people on board, as per Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency's statement.
The Aeroflot flight reportedly had to drop 500 metres (1,600 feet) to keep its distance from the reconnaissance aircraft, which the pilots saw from the cockpit with the naked eye.
A second plane, a smaller CL650 aircraft, flying from the Black Sea resort Sochi to Skopje, the capital of Northern Macedonia, also had to divert to avoid the spy plane, the Russian air transport authority said Saturday.
"The direction and altitude of the commercial flights were immediately altered" to avoid a collision, the agency said, adding that the unknown plane did not respond to radio hails from air traffic control.
While the Federal Air Transport Agency did not say which nation had operated the spy plane, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova indicated on Sunday that the reconnaissance aircraft belonged to the United States.
"The actions of the US Air Force have created a threat to civil aviation," Zakharova said on messaging app Telegram.
"If now a catastrophe in the airspace over the open waters of the Black Sea has been averted, this does not mean that the United States and NATO can continue to risk people's lives with impunity."
The Federal Air Transport Agency said it would lodge a diplomatic protest.
"Increased activity by NATO aircraft near Russia's borders, including above the Black Sea, creates a risk of dangerous accidents involving civilian aircraft," the agency said.
The incident came as tensions rise between Russia and Western nations, which accuse Moscow of massing troops on its border with Ukraine in preparation for a possible invasion.
Russia has denied it has any such plans, in turn accusing NATO countries of "provocations" including military exercises near its borders.
(With inputs from agencies)