When Russians Fly Over European Coasts


PARIS -- The French defense ministry confirmed Feb. 12 for the first time that French Mirage and Rafale fighters were scrambled in late January in response to Russian military aircraft flying near the Belgian border.

The two Tupolev TU-95 had followed the Norwegian coast from the Nordic nation's northern border with Russia all the way into the Channel as far as Belgium. As soon as they crossed the Norwegian line at 8:14 a.m. CET Jan. 28, the Russian aircraft were closely followed by European forces, initially from Norway, before being intercepted by British forces above the northern Scottish islands.

The ministry said two French Mirage-2000 took off at 2:48 p.m. and 2:56 p.m. from Lan-Bihoué air base in south Brittany in response to the incident, along with a Rafale that was scrambled from Creil air base at 2:38 p.m. as an escort.

“Russian fighters regularly tour around Europe. These two didn't violate any civil regulation,” the defense ministry said during a weekly news conference here.

France “made sure the fighters noticed that they had been seen,” though no incident was reported.

“This situation was exceptional,” the defense ministry added, given there “has not been an increase in such events lately.”

European coasts are carefully monitored against incursion, but the delicate situation in Ukraine and the tensions between the alliance and Russia explains the quick reaction of NATO forces, especially in light of recent events as European, Ukrainian and Russian governments met to hammer out a ceasefire between Moscow and Kiev.



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