Russia intercepted US and Swedish reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced, the latest in a series of similar encounters occurring at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.
The Russian government statement said one of its Su-27 fighters approached the jets “at a safe distance and identified them as a US Air Force RC-135 spy plane and a Swedish Air Force Gulfstream reconnaissance aircraft.”
The RC-135 is a reconnaissance aircraft used primarily for intelligence collection purposes.
“The Su-27 pilot reported on the identification of foreign reconnaissance aircraft and accompanied them, preventing violations of the Russian airspace borders in compliance with all necessary security measures,” the Russian statement said. The Russians also released what they said was a video of the interception.
A US military official confirmed the encounter, but said it was safe and professional.
“A RC-135 was flying a routine mission in international airspace over the Baltic sea. It was intercepted by a Russian Federation SU-27 aircraft. The intercept was deemed safe,” another US official told CNN.
The latest known interception over the Baltic Sea came as the US formally delivered a diplomatic protest known as a demarche to the Russian government on Monday over a near collision between a Russian warship and a US Navy ship in the Philippine Sea on Friday, according to a US official.
The chargé d’affaires in the US embassy in Moscow delivered the protest to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Monday morning, and the US defense attaché in Moscow delivered a similar message to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the official said.
CNN has reached out to the US Department of Defense for comment.
Tuesday’s interaction comes just days after another brush with Russian aircraft.
Last week, the US 6th Fleet said a Russian aircraft had intercepted a US aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea three times in less than three hours.
The second of the three interactions “was determined to be unsafe” due to the Russian aircraft “conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the US Navy said.
The Russian aircraft was armed and passed about 150 feet directly in front of the US plane, according to two US officials.
The Russian military disputed the US Navy’s characterization of the intercept as unsafe.
Late last month, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said US F-22 stealth jets intercepted four Russian bombers and two Russian fighter jets off the coast of Alaska.
The Russian bomber flights are seen by US military officials as part of Moscow’s effort to train its military for a potential crisis while sending a message of strength to adversaries.
US officials say Russian bombers and jets have flown in the area several times a year for the last few years and have similarly been intercepted by US or Canadian jets operating as part of NORAD.