Scandinavian jet with 132 passengers 'nearly crashed into Russian warplane' - study

LONDON (AFP) - A Scandinavian airliner carrying 132 passengers nearly crashed earlier this year into a Russian warplane that was flying covertly, a study of Russia-West military incidents said Monday.

Swedish media reported that the two planes came within 90 metres of each other in the air some 80km southeast of the Swedish city of Malmo on March 3.

"A collision was apparently avoided thanks only to good visibility and the alertness of the passenger plane pilots," the European Leadership Network (ELN) think-tank's report said.

The Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737 was on its way from Copenhagen to Rome.

The Russian reconnaissance plane "did not transmit its position", said the report "Dangerous Brinkmanship: Close Military Encounters Between Russia and the West in 2014".

The narrowly avoided incident would have been "comparable to the tragedy of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine", it said, referring to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane on July 17 in which 298 people died.

The report listed a total of 45 incidents so far this year - almost all of them linked to air and naval war games in different parts of the world including the Pacific.

The SAS incident was classified as "high risk", along with two others: the alleged abduction of an Estonian security service operative by Russian agents from an Estonian border post on September 5 and the reports of "foreign underwater activity" off the Swedish coast last month.

The study also counted 11 "serious incidents with escalation risk" including four cases of "harassment" of US and Swedish planes in international airspace by armed Russian fighter jets.

Among the 11 were also two cases of Russian aircraft conducting close overflights over Canadian and US ships in the Black Sea and Russian aircraft violating Swedish airspace on a mock "bombing raid" mission and Russian planes conducting a mock attack on the heavily populated Danish island of Bornholm.

The Soviet Union's last leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday warned that the world was on the "brink of a new Cold War" at an event to mark 25 years since the Berlin Wall's fall.

The crisis in Ukraine has escalated tensions between Russia and the West to their highest level since the end of the Cold War and increased Russian air activity over Europe during the past year has rattled the nerves of NATO alliance members.

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