RAF scrambles to intercept Russian bombers
Russian bombers heading toward UK intercepted by RAF fighter jets
RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian strategic bombers heading for British airspace yesterday, as the spirit of the Cold War returned to the North Atlantic once again.
The incident, described as rare by the RAF, served as a telling metaphor for the stand-off between London and Moscow over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
While the Kremlin hesitated before responding to Britain’s expulsion of four diplomats, the Russian military engaged in some old-fashioned sabre-rattling.
Two Tu95 “Bear” bombers were dispatched from their base on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic Circle and headed towards British airspace.
Russian military aircraft based near the northern port city of Murmansk fly patrols off the Norwegian coast regularly, but the RAF said that it was highly unusual for them to stray as far south as Scotland.
Two Tornado fighters, part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert, took off from RAF Leeming, in Yorkshire, to confront the Russian aircraft, after they were shadowed by two F16s from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, The Times has learnt.
“The Russians turned back before they reached British airspace,” an RAF spokesman said.
There was no evidence to suggest that the incident was connected with the diplomatic row over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoy, the main suspect in the murder of Litvinenko. Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, criticised the British reaction but urged the Kremlin not to escalate the conflict. “Why does one former KGB officer killing another deserve this attention?” he asked.
In London, Yuri Fedotov, the Russian Ambassador to London, said that Russia would soon respond against Britain and admitted that relations were strained.
“The response will follow. It takes time. We are serious people,” he said. “It is really hard to be optimistic today. I hope in the long run our relations will be restarted – reloaded, so to say – but that is not the best moment of the history of our bilateral relations.”
The Times, "RAF scrambles to intercept Russian bombers", p 29, 18 July 2007.
"The Insider" mailing list article, 18 July 2007.
Tags: Russian, bombers, RAF, intercepted, British, airspace, , conspiracy theories.