This is the dramatic moment a Russian fighter jet intercepted a pair of US nuclear bombers over the Baltic Sea, just days after an American drone was downed.
Russia’s defence ministry said a single Su-35 was scrambled to meet the B-52 strategic bombers that were flying towards the Russian border on Monday, but that it returned to base after they moved away following a tense stand off.
The development came as Moscow said it had flown two of its own nuclear bombers over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours, in a statement released as Japan’s prime minister was beginning a surprise visit to Ukraine – and as China’s premier Xi Jinping continues his own visit to Moscow.
Russia’s Tupolev Tu-95MS planes are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and Moscow regularly flies them over international waters in the Arctic, North Atlantic and Pacific as a show of strength and as an intimidation tactic.
It also followed the March 14 crash of a US military surveillance drone into the Black Sea after it was intercepted by Russian jets, in the first known direct military encounter between Russia and the US since Russia invaded Ukraine.
This is the dramatic moment a Russian fighter jet intercepted a pair of US nuclear bombers over the Baltic Sea, just days after an American drone was downed
Dramatic footage, purportedly captured from the Su-35, appeared to confirm this on Tuesday. In the video captured from close-range, it showed one of the two American aircraft soaring above the clouds (pictured)
Two US B-52 Stratofortress aircraft (left) were intercepted by a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 (right). Here’s how they stack up against eachother
‘On March 20, radar facilities of the air defence forces of the Western military district on duty over the Baltic Sea detected two air targets flying in the direction of the Russian Federation’s state border,’ the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.
It said the targets were US Air Force B52H strategic bombers.
Dramatic footage, purportedly captured from the Su-35, appeared to confirm this on Tuesday. In the video captured from close-range, it showed one of the two American aircraft soaring above the clouds.
Earlier, the two US planes were seen being escorted by Polish fighter jets.
Flightradar24 plotted the route of a B52 Stratofortress bomber across Europe on Monday, saying it was flying at 26,500ft. The route tracked across Spain from south to north, skirted around France, before flying over Britain.
It then went out into the north sea, crossed Denmark, flew up into Sweden and then down into Poland, before following the Baltic Sea up to Estonia, before turning back on itself to fly back towards Sweden.
Russia said a Su-35 fighter jet took to the air in order to prevent a border violation, and added, ‘after the foreign military aircraft moved away from the Russian Federation state border, the Russian fighter returned to its base airfield.’
The ministry said the Su-35’s flight was strictly in line with international rules of the use of airspace. ‘No violation of the state border of the Russian Federation was permitted,’ it said.
Tensions between Washington and Moscow are at their highest since the Cold War as Vladimir Putin continues his illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine has been robustly supported by the US and its NATO allies, with Russia accusing America of fighting a proxy war in Ukraine.
The incident involving the Su-35 and B-52s comes a week after two Russian fighter jets brought down a US reaper drone over the Black Sea by dumping fuel on it.
The US criticised Russia for the ‘reckless’ and ‘unprofessional’ attack on an American military asset incident over international waters, with footage later being released by US European Command showing how the Russian fighters downed the drone.
In the clip, one of two Russian jets is seen soaring towards the drone before veering upwards, dumping fuel on it as it makes the pass. Is is understood that US military personnel stationed in Germany watched a live feed in horror as the event unfolded.
Amid the escalating tensions, there have been fears for months that some sort of incident in or over the Black Sea could lead to an escalation in the conflict in Ukraine, which some analysts say could spill over NATO borders.
Another incident that has increased tensions in Europe is the attacks against the Nord Stream gas pipeline – which before the war connected Germany to Russia’s gas supplies – with both sides pointing the finger at the other.
Who exactly was behind the attack remains a mystery, with investigations still open.
Meanwhile, Moscow has been working to recover the wreckage from the sea after claiming that it had won the race to find its location.
Russia also said on Tuesday that it had flown two of its own strategic nuclear bombers – nuclear-capable Tu-95MS ‘Bears’ – over the Sea of Japan.
Pictured: The two US nuclear bombers are seen being escorted by a Polish fighter jet
Pictured: A map showing the route of one of the two US B-52 combers over Europe
Pictured: A grab from a video showing a Russian fighter jet taking down a US-drone last week
The timing of the latest flight appeared more pointed than usual, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was due in Kyiv later on a visit to show solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the war against Russia.
Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed Kishida boarding a train at the Polish town of Przemysl near the Ukraine border.
Russia said the strategic bombers made a ‘planned flight’, escorted by fighter planes. It was carried out in strict compliance with international law and was made over neutral waters, the defence ministry said.
In February, North American air defence forces were sent to intercept several Russian strategic bombers and fighter jets as they flew over international airspace near Alaska.
Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with Moscow over islands in the north Pacific that dates back to the end of World War Two, is a key Asian ally of the United States and a member of the Group of Seven rich democracies, and has joined Western sanctions against Russia.
Kishida’s trip to Ukraine also coincides with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Moscow. Washington has denounced Xi’s visit, saying the timing just days after an international court accused Putin of war crimes indicated Beijing was providing Moscow with ‘diplomatic cover’ to commit additional crimes.
The development came as Moscow said it had flown two of its own nuclear Tu-95MS bombers (pictured, file photo) over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours, in a statement released as Japan’s prime minister was beginning a surprise visit to Ukraine
It was Xi’s first trip abroad since he obtained an unprecedented third term last month. The Chinese leader has been trying to portray Beijing as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine, even as he deepens economic ties with his closest ally.
Putin and Xi greeted one another as ‘dear friend’ when they met in the Kremlin on Monday, and Russian state news agencies later reported they held informal talks for nearly 4-1/2 hours, with more official talks scheduled for Tuesday.
In televised comments, Putin told Xi he viewed China’s proposals for resolution of the Ukraine conflict with respect. He confessed to being ‘slightly envious’ of China’s ‘very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the state’.
Xi, for his part, praised Putin and predicted Russians would re-elect him next year.