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NATO jets intercept Russian aircraft near Estonian airspace

For the second time in a week, British and German fighter jets have intercepted a Russian aircraft close to Estonian airspace as NATO carries out joint air policing efforts in the region.

The two Typhoon jets on Friday intercepted “a Russian military Tu-134 passenger jet, known by the NATO name Crusty, that was being escorted by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jets, and an AN-12 Cub military transport aircraft,” the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) said in a statement on Saturday.

The RAF said the operation was a “reassurance that the UK and Germany together with other NATO allies stand with their Estonian ally at this time of tension.”

“We quickly identified the Russian aircraft and then monitored it as it flew close to NATO airspace,” said Richard Leask, an RAF commander.

“The NATO Air Policing mission is carried out to ensure any aircraft of interest are intercepted to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users,” he added. 

READ MORE: Russia races to find drone debris in Black Sea; US says it has no value

Tensions sparked 

The RAF is deployed in Estonia on Operation Azotize, and will take over leadership from the German detachment in April.

The commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll said, “Now the two Air Force detachments here in Estonia have fully integrated, this interception demonstrated that the two detachments are now working extremely well together as one team.”

The intercepts involving NATO aircraft comes after an American drone crashed into the Black Sea after colliding with Russian fighter jets, sparking tensions between the two countries. 

The US has claimed a Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on an American drone over the Black Sea and then collided with it, causing the drone to crash, a charge Russia denies.  

US drone downing: Unanswered questions and conflicting accounts

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