Russia says a civilian flight diverted to avoid Nato spy plane

MOSCOW • A Russian airliner had to change course to avoid a Nato spy plane that was crossing its path above the Black Sea, the Moscow authorities have said.

The alleged spy plane "descended rapidly" across the planned route of a Tel Aviv-Moscow Aeroflot service with 142 people on board, Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency said late on Saturday, said news agency Interfax.

"The direction and altitude of the commercial flight were immediately altered" to avoid a collision, the agency said, adding that the unknown plane did not respond to radio hails from air traffic control.

Interfax reported that the Aeroflot flight had to drop 500m to keep its distance from the reconnaissance aircraft, which the pilots saw from the cockpit with the naked eye.

A second plane, a private jet flying from the Black Sea resort Sochi to Northern Macedonian capital Skopje, also had to divert to avoid the spy plane, the air transport authority said.

"Increased activity by Nato aircraft near Russia's borders... creates a risk of dangerous accidents involving civilian aircraft," the agency said, adding that it would lodge a diplomatic protest.

The Russian authorities did not say which nation had operated the spy plane.

Last Friday, Russian fighter jets were sent to escort two American spy aircraft over the Black Sea region, Russian media reported.

Saturday's incident came amid rising tensions between Russia and Western nations, which accuse Moscow of massing troops on its border with Ukraine in preparation for an invasion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2021, with the headline Russia says a civilian flight diverted to avoid Nato spy plane. Subscribe