U.S. Military Jets Have 'No Business' in Black Sea, Says Russian General After 'Unsafe' Intercept

Update| After the U.S. accused Russia of buzzing one of its jets in an “unsafe” way over the Black Sea, a decorated Russian general has fired back, saying American airmen had no business flying in these European waters to begin with.

The incident involved a dramatic close call between a Russian Su-30 fighter jet and a U.S. P-8A Poseidon, disrupting the routine practice of intercepting non-ally aircraft near national waters. Russia has access to the Black Sea but so do three U.S. allies, as well as occasional military training partners Ukraine and Georgia.

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Traffic above the shared waters in Europe’s southeast has resulted in a handful of tense encounters since relations with Moscow deteriorated in 2014 and the near miss between the Russian and U.S. jets was among the more spectacular.

According to the Pentagon, the Russian fighter swooped in to follow the U.S. aircraft while in international airspace—an acceptable precaution after identifying a foreign jet, even though the P-8A had its transponders on. However the Russian jet crossed in front of the U.S. plane from right to left, the Pentagon told CNN, engaging its afterburners, thereby prompting the U.S. Poseidon to spanner into "a 15-degree roll and violent turbulence."

The Russian military subsequently confirmed that the intercept over international waters did take place but did not address the accusation that the maneuver was unsafe or reveal other details about the incident, state news agency Itar-Tass reported. State media coverage has been overwhelmingly skeptical about claims that Moscow’s aircraft was at fault.

The Russian fighter “spoiled the plans of the American reconnaissance jet,” Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24 reported, while state-run Sputnik radio cited a professor at Russia’s military studies academy concluding that Russia’s “military aviation just doesn’t fly that way.”

11_28_US_jet U.S. Navy flight pilots are seen aboard the Boeing P-8A Poseidon plane before its departure to take part in the search for the ARA San Juan submarine missing at sea, at a military air base in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, November 26. Argentine Navy/Handout/Reuters

Also speaking to state news agency RIA Novosti, the retired deputy commander of Russia’s air force, Nikolay Antoshkin, dismissed the U.S. reaction.

“Our jet simply indicated, approached, the airman had a look and demonstrated that [the Poseidon] must leave,” Antoshkin, said on Tuesday.

“Americans have nothing to do in the Black Sea. This is an enclosed sea,” Antoshkin said, lamenting that in Soviet times, when Moscow controlled all but Turkey’s ports in the Black Sea, foreign air forces did not fly freely above the waters.

Since then, ex-Communist states Bulgaria and Romania have joined Turkey in the U.S.-led NATO alliance, while former Soviet states Ukraine and Georgia have expressed a desire to join, but cannot embark on the process because Russian-backed troops hold parts of their territory.

After Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, Turkey has said the absence of a regional NATO force in the Black Sea allows Moscow to shape the sea like “[almost] a Russian lake.”

This article has been updated to include a brief confirmation from the Russian military that the incident took place, released after publication.

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