Russia Sends Fighter Jets to Intercept U.S. Strategic Bombers

Russia's Defense Ministry has said it scrambled fighter jets to escort U.S. bombers over the Bering Sea in the country's far east, as tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to ramp up.

Moscow said on Thursday that it sent MiG-31 and Su-35 fighters to accompany the U.S. Air Force's B-52-N strategic bombers over the Bering Sea, which separates North America from Russia.

"Russian airspace control devices over the neutral waters of the Bering Sea detected three air targets approaching the state border of the Russian Federation," the ministry said in a statement.

It added that the fighters landed "safely at home" after the U.S. aircraft turned away from the Russian border.

"The state border of the Russian Federation was not violated," reported the news agency Tass, using the formulaic language that Moscow employs for such missions, which have increased in frequency amid tit-for-tat military flights between the countries.

Russia's Defense Ministry released footage of the U.S. aircraft being accompanied, which was shown on the military TV channel Zvyozda.

The scrambling of fighter jets comes only two days after a similar incident. Russia's National Defense Control Center said on Tuesday that one of its Su-30 fighters was sent to intercept a U.S. spy plane over the Black Sea.

The Russian plane from the country's Southern Military District's air defense forces was "scrambled to identify the aerial target and prevent it from violating the Russian state border," the center said, according to the news agency Tass.

"The crew of the Russian fighter identified the aerial target as a U.S. Air Force EP-3E Aries electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft and shadowed it," the statement added.

Tensions between Russia, the U.S. and NATO continue to simmer. Moscow has been angered by drills conducted by the alliance in the Black Sea—a hotspot since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

There was a standoff in the region following the British Navy's sailing of HMS Defender past Crimea in June.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, has reiterated his government's warning to NATO and its allies not to confront Moscow.

In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta released on Wednesday, he said a repeat of such actions would "continue to be suppressed by the most severe methods.

"We invite our opponents to think hard about whether to organize such provocations, taking into account the capabilities of the Russian armed forces."

Update 7/15/21, 1:00 p.m. ET: This article was updated to add extra information.

MiG-31 jets over Red Square
Russia's MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets fly over Moscow in a military parade on May 9, 2018. Russia's Defense Ministry said MiG-31 jets accompanied U.S. B-52-N strategic bombers over the Bering Sea on July 15. YURI KADOBNOV/Getty