A Russian fighter aircraft made an “unsafe close range intercept” with a U.S. Navy jet over the Black Sea on Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in an emailed statement that the Russian Su-27 came “extremely close” and spent 19 minutes intercepting the U.S. P-8A Poseidon. The P-8 was conducting “routine operations in international airspace,” Davis said.

“U.S. Navy aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in the area and most interactions are safe and professional,” Davis said. “However, we have concerns when there is an unsafe maneuver like this. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions, and could result in a miscalculation or accident.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told Interfax that the U.S. P-8 was operating without a transponder signal, causing the Russians to launch their Su-27s from Belbek, an air base in Crimea. Konashenkov said the Russian jet approached the P-8 twice before it “abruptly changed course” and flew away from the Russian border.

“The Russian pilots acted in strict conformity with air traffic international rules,” Konashenkov said. “This is not the first attempt by the NATO aviation to approach the Russian state border to conduct reconnaissance in the areas where the Caucasus 2016 strategic command-and-staff exercise is held.”

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense website, the Caucasus 2016 exercise runs from Sept. 5 to 10 and involves more than 12,000 troops. The exercise also involves using new equipment, mobilizing region-based units and the “wide usage of aviation and maritime forces of the Black Sea Fleet and the Caspian flotilla.”

Read more at Washington Post

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