The Defence Secretary has revealed that a Russian fighter jet recently “released a missile” in the vicinity of a British aircraft.
Ben Wallace told the Commons the incident occurred in “international airspace over the Black Sea” on Thursday 29 September. He added that an “unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint” plane was “interacted with” by two Russian SU-27s, one of which “released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.
Britain has been a strong supporter of Ukraine, including sending military aid, since Putin’s invasion of the country began in February. Russia bombarded major cities in its neighbouring country before invading. The war is now in its eight month.
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What has the defence secretary said about the incident?
Detailing what happened between the Russian fighter and the UK plane, Mr Wallace said: “I would also like to share with the House details of a recent incident which occurred in international airspace over the Black Sea. On 29 September an unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint, a civilian-style aircraft on routine patrol over the Black Sea was interacted with by two Russian armed SU-27 fighter aircraft.
“It is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed and this day was no different. During that interaction however, it transpired that one of the SU-27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range.
“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was approximately 90 minutes. The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to base.”
Missile release was due to a ‘technical malfunction’
The defence secretary explained: “The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to its base. In light of this potentially dangerous engagement, I have communicated my concerns directly to my Russian counterpart, Defence Minister (Sergei) Shoigu, and the chief of defence staff in Moscow.
“In my letter I made clear the aircraft was unarmed, in international airspace, and following a pre-notified flight path. I felt it was prudent to suspend these patrols until a response was received by the Russian state.
“The reply by the Russian minister of defence on October 10 stated they have conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the incident and stated it was a technical malfunction of the SU-27 fighter. They also acknowledge that the incident took place in international airspace.”
Mr Wallace concluded his report into the incident over the Black Sea by telling the Commons: “The UK Ministry of Defence has shared this information with allies and, after consultation, I have restarted routine patrols, but this time escorted by fighter aircraft.
“Everything we do is considered and calibrated with regard to ongoing conflict in the region and in accordance with international law.
“We welcome Russia’s acknowledgement this was in international airspace, and the UK has conducted regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea since 2019 and we will continue to do so.”
The defence secretary is not the only member to of the government who will make an announcement in the Commons. The Foreigh Secretary will give an update on sanctions concerning the use of drones made in Iran.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will make an announcement shortly about taking action using our autonomous sanctions regime concerning Iranian drones.”