Russia intercepts three French military planes over Black Sea as tensions soar

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The Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted two Mirage 2000 tactical combat planes and a French air force C-135 aerial refueling tanker over the Black Sea earlier today. Russia’s National Defense Control Center said: “The Russian fighter’s pilot identified the aerial targets as two Mirage 2000 tactical aircraft and a C-135 aerial refueling tanker of the French Air Force and shadowed them over the Black Sea.

“A fighter jet was scrambled to identify the aerial targets and prevent them from violating the Russian state border.

“No violations of the Russian state border were allowed.”

The latest sortie by French aircraft is likely to be aimed at testing the strength and speed of Russia’s air defences.

The practice is frequently deployed by both sides in a never-ending game of cat and mouse.

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It was one of numerous aircraft intercepted by Moscow over recent weeks and comes as tensions in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and government forces continue.

Last week US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Russia to cease all “reckless and aggressive actions” towards Ukraine.

But the Russian president ignored the warning along with other equally stark ones from world leaders including Joe Biden, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson.

They have all called for Mr Putin to withdraw the forces he has built up over recent weeks from Ukraine’s eastern border.

Russia has refused and insisted the troops are simply training.

Yesterday the Ukrainian government said Russia still has 100,000 troops near its border – the largest buildup since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine’s state security service, echoed earlier comments by the country’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who accused Russia of having failed to fully withdraw military hardware and troops from the area.

In response NATO countries, including the UK, have begun sending an array of weapons and personnel to the area.

According to reports, British warships will sail for the Black Sea in a bid to show solidarity with Ukraine and our NATO allies.

The Sunday Times reported one Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate will leave the Royal Navy’s carrier task group.

RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will also stand ready on the navy’s flagship aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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