Pentagon: Navy planes experienced ‘unprofessional intercepts’ by Russian aircraft over Mediterranean

Three U.S. Navy planes experienced “unprofessional intercepts” by Russian aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea last weekend, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 

U.S. Navy Capt. Mike Kafka, director of Defense Press Operations, said in a statement to The Hill that the three Navy P-8A Poseidon aircrafts were flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean when the intercepts occurred.

No one was hurt in the interactions, but Kafka said that they “could result in miscalculations and mistakes that lead to more dangerous outcomes.”

“We have made our concerns known to Russian officials through diplomatic channels,” he said. “The US will continue to operate safely, professionally and consistent with international law in international waters and airspace. We expect Russia to do the same.”

It was unclear from the statement what exactly occurred over the weekend and where in the Mediterranean the encounters happened.

CNN, citing multiple US officials familiar with the incident, reported that one Navy aircraft had an “extremely close” encounter with multiple Russian military jets, followed by a subsequent encounter.

ABC News separately reported that in one incident, Russian aircraft came within five feet of an American aircraft.

The incident comes as the U.S. and allies brace for the possibility that Russia may invade Ukraine as Moscow masses over 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.

Moscow has denied such intentions, and on Tuesday and Wednesday announced that some troops would return to their bases following drills. Those announcements have been met with skepticism from the U.S. and from NATO, which says it has seen no proof of a drawdown.

Russia is currently conducting military drills in Mediterranean, part of ongoing large-scale drills. According to a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defense released Tuesday, those drills involve more than 15 warships and 30 aircraft.

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that U.S. and coalition forces escorted three Russian aircraft that flew into coalition-restricted airspace in Syria on Tuesday.

Tags military drills Russia-Ukraine conflict US-Russia relations

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