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Russia claims it intercepted 2 US B-52H bombers near its border

Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers fly over the Pacific Ocean during a routine training mission Aug. 2, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis)
March 21, 2023

Russia has claimed that one of its fighter jets intercepted two U.S. bombers near the Russian border on Monday, less than a week after Russian jets downed a U.S. drone near Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Telegram that two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers were detected flying toward the Russian border, over the Baltic Sea, before a Su-35 fighter scrambled to intercept them on Monday.

The defense ministry said the jet returned home after the bombers “flew off the state border.”

“The flight of the Russian fighter jet was carried out in strict compliance with international rules of airspace use. There was no violation of the state border of the Russian Federation,” the ministry stated.

In a statement, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe stated that the B-52s were conducting a “long-range Bomber Task Force mission” with NATO allies over Estonia, about 50 nautical miles from Russian airspace.

“The mission was part of normal, scheduled training operations coordinated months prior to execution in accordance with flight standards,” Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said during a briefing Tuesday.

The incident occurred over the Baltic Sea, which is to the east of Russia’s border. It follows closely after an encounter between two Russian Su-27 jets and a U.S. Reaper drone over the Black Sea, to the south of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

That incident marked the first known physical contact between U.S. and Russian military forces since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. 

The jets attempted to dump fuel on the drone multiple times, and one of them struck and broke the drone’s propeller, causing U.S. forces to down it in international waters, according to U.S. European Command. Footage of the incident, captured by the drone, was later released.

U.S. interceptions of Russian jets near American airspace are common. U.S. fighter jets recently intercepted four Russian military aircraft near Alaska one day after another group of Russian warplanes was intercepted near Alaska.

This story has been updated.