RAF jets escort Russian aircraft

A Russian Tu-95 Bear 'H' aircraft Image copyright MOD
Image caption The aircraft were identified as Russian "Bear" strategic bombers (library photo)

RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled after two Russian military aircraft were seen flying towards UK airspace, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

The British jets were launched from RAF Lossiemouth after the Russian planes were spotted north of Scotland.

An MoD spokesman said: "At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace."

The Russian bombers were not deemed to be a threat, he added.

The aircraft were identified as Russian "Bear" strategic bombers.

It is the latest of several similar incidents involving Russian military aircraft flying close to UK airspace.

It also came as Nato pledged to counter "hybrid warfare" from Russia at a meeting of defence ministers in Turkey.

'Flexing military might'

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale says the RAF is "pretty used to this now" and seems to be intercepting Russian planes "about once a month".

He said: "There has been a dramatic increase in Russian encroachments - this year there have been three times as many [RAF] intercepts as previous years.

"The worry is when these Russian bombers come, there's no signal - they don't have their transponder, they are not 'squawking' - so in other words, only military radar pick them up."

With the Russians investing heavily in their military, he said it was "another example of Russia flexing its military might".

Warfare exercise

Russian officials have consistently denied any wrongdoing and said their planes have been complying with international rules.

Tensions between Nato countries and Russia have risen in recent months over Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

At a defence conference on Thursday, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said that a more assertive Russia had been using force to change borders and intimidate its neighbours.

Though Russia denies Nato's claim that it is backing rebels in Ukraine, Mr Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to adapt to meet the changing world.

"We will ensure that the strategies we are developing are complementary, so that we can work together quickly and effectively in the case of a hybrid threat against any of our members," said Mr Stoltenberg.

In the North Sea, off the coast of Norway, Nato has been conducting its largest ever anti-submarine warfare exercise.

It is seen as a response to the growing threat from Russian submarines which have stepped up their own patrols in the area.

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