Russian Jet Intercepts French, German Aircraft Near Border; Belarus Puts Troops On High Alert

Russia's defense ministry on Monday said the military scrambled fighter jets in response to surveillance aircraft from NATO countries approaching its border. Interfax reported based on the statement that German and French aircraft approached the Russian border in the Baltic region, before being warned off by the Russian fighters.

"Two air targets were detected approaching Russia's state border," the defense ministry said. "In order to identify the targets and prevent the Russian state border being violated, an Su-27 fighter from the Baltic Fleet air force was scrambled."

"Russia said the flights were being conducted by a German P-3C patrol aircraft and a French Atlantic-2 maritime patrol jet," Reuters details further based on the statement. "After the Russian jet was scrambled and the French and German ones turned away from Russia, the Su-27 returned to base, the defense ministry said."

Illustrative file image: Tass

These types of intercepts which occur not infrequently over both the Baltic and Black sea regions have grown more dangerous in the wake of the March incident which resulted in the downing of a MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea

"The U.S. military’s declassified 42-second color footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said," the AP described of the incident at the time. "Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone’s optical instruments to drive it from the area." The Reaper drone then crashed, also after a reported aerial collision (clipped) with one of the Russian fighters.

The Pentagon subsequently said it would temporarily restrict the extent of its flights which are near Russian border regions, given the threat.

Meanwhile Russia and its ally Belarus are taking further steps to secure sensitive border areas near Ukraine in the wake of the latest deadly aerial incidents, particularly the reported downing of four Russian military aircraft in one day, on Saturday. Crucially the downings of two Russian fighter jets and two helicopters all happened in the same region near the Ukrainian border, though precise details have remained unclear, and multiple pilot deaths had been reported.

President Alexander Lukashenko has said he's put Belarusian troops on a high state of alert over the apparent cross-border attacks, given the Byransk region borders Belarus and Ukraine. According to his words in Interfax (machine translation): 

"Three days after the events near us. I mean, in the Bryansk region, when four aircraft were shot down. We were forced to respond to this. Since then, we have been on high alert - our troops," Lukashenka said during visits to the Central Command Post of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces.

"I am interested in the situation around the country. And, of course, the directions and prospects for the development of this situation. Briefly. Without intimidation. About what is happening and what we expect in the short term," the president added."

This appears confirmation from the Belarusian leader that the aircraft were indeed "shot down" - which hadn't immediately been confirmed from the Kremlin on Saturday. The Ukrainian side has 'celebrated' the downing of the multiple aircraft, which poses the problem of significant escalation along border regions in Russia proper, also amid continued small drone activity which has threatened cities deep inside Russia, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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