Russia to US Navy: Get new maps

Russia to US Navy: Get new maps
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Russia’s defense ministry on Thursday responded to the U.S. Navy following the United States’ increasingly specific accusations of an “unsafe” intercept over the Black Sea on Monday, saying the U.S. needs to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense would like to remind Navy Capt. Bill Ellis that the Crimea is an integral part of the Russian Federation,” the ministry said Thursday in a statement, referring to the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 67.

“When commanders sent foreign pilots for reconnaissance missions to this part of the Black Sea, they should take into account that they will meet with the Russian fighter jets, not Ukrainian partners. Or pilots should be provided with updated boundary maps containing accurate data about the Russian air boarders.”

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Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that sparked Moscow's increasingly Cold War-like tensions with the West that continues today. The United States, along with most of the international community, does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory, holding firm that the annexation was illegal.

On Monday, U.S. Naval Forces Europe accused a Russian Su-27 of coming within five feet of a U.S. EP-3 Aries surveillance plane during an intercept that lasted two hours and 40 minutes. Later that night, the State Department released a statement expressing “the highest level of concern” with the incident.

On Tuesday, the Navy released a video showing the Russian Su-27 crossing in front of the U.S. EP-3. It followed that with five more videos Wednesday showing the Russian plane hovering close the Navy plane.

“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” Ellis said Wednesday in a statement released alongside the videos. “For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe.

“The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action.”

In its statement Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested the U.S. plane had its transponders turned off and so it had a right to block the EP-3 from approaching.

“The actions of the Russian Su-27 that was blocking the attempts of the EP-3 Aries II reconnaissance plane to approach the border of the Russian Federation near the Crimea for more than 2 hours and 20 minutes are correctly called ‘escort,’ ” the statement said. “The maneuvers of the Russian fighter jet on January 29 were standard, absolutely legal and absolutely safe for the US EP-3 Aries II reconnaissance plane.”