Russian fighter jets on Tuesday forced away a NATO F-18 fighter jet that came near a plane carrying the Kremlin’s defense minister, according to Moscow’s state-run TASS news agency.
The NATO jet reportedly tried to approach Sergei Shoigu‘s plane over international airspace over the Baltic Sea en route to Moscow before two Russian Sukhoi-27 fighters that were escorting the official’s aircraft chased off the F-18.
A NATO official told TASS that jets approached the Russian plane in order to identify it.
“Jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission scrambled to identify the aircraft, which flew close to Allied airspace,” the official said. “Once identification of the aircraft had taken place, the NATO jets returned to base.”
This is not the first time Moscow and NATO have been involved in such an incident over the same body of water.
Shoigu in 2017 was flying over the Baltic when a NATO F-16 fighter jet approached his aircraft and was also chased away by escort planes, TASS reported at the time.
NATO said at the time that Shoigu’s aircraft did not identify itself or respond to air traffic control, so the alliance’s jets “scrambled to identify them, according to standard procedure.”