NEW: Russian bombers disrupted civil aviation, UK Foreign Office representative says
UK: Russian bombers were flying over English Channel
Russian aircraft didn't cross into British airspace, spokesman says
Russia’s ambassador to Britain was summoned to the UK’s Foreign Office on Thursday to explain why two Russian bombers were flying over the English Channel this week, a representative of the office said.
Two Russian bombers “caused disruption to civil aviation” when they flew near, but did not cross into, British airspace on Wednesday, the Foreign Office representative said.
Two UK Royal Air Force jets intercepted the bombers, both capable of carrying nuclear weapons, south of Bournemouth, England, over the English Channel, a UK defense spokesman said Thursday.
The British jets escorted the bombers for about an hour-and-a-half until the bombers left the area, the defense spokesman said.
“Russian aircraft maneuvers yesterday are part of (an) increasing pattern of out-of-area operations by Russian aircraft,” the Foreign Office representative said.
The representative did not elaborate on how civil aviation was disrupted. Details about what the Russian ambassador has told Britain about the incident weren’t immediately available.
Wednesday’s incident would be the latest in what NATO has said is an increase in Russian military flights near alliance members’ territory.
In November, NATO said its members’ jets had been scrambled more than 400 times in 2014 to intercept Russian military flights close to members’ territories – a 50% increase over the previous year.
The increase harkens back to the days of the Cold War, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said November 20 during a visit to NATO member Estonia.
“This pattern is risky and unjustified,” Stoltenberg said. “So NATO remains vigilant. We are here. And we are ready to defend all allies against any threat.”
In a November report, the European Leadership Network listed more than 40 “close military encounters between Russia and the West” in the eight months from March to October.
Three of those, including a near-collision between a Russian military plane and a Swedish passenger aircraft carrying 132 people, were classified as “high-risk” incidents that could have led to direct military confrontation between Russia and the West, according to the report, titled “Dangerous Brinksmanship.”
UK jets intercepted more than 100 Russian aircraft last year, according to the British defense ministry.
CNN’s Lindsay Isaac and Brad Lendon contributed to this report.