Russia scrambled a fighter jet on Tuesday to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 strategic bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea near its border, in an incident that had echoes of the Cold War.
The appearance of the B-52, a long-range bomber that first went into service in the 1950s, irked Moscow. A Russian Foreign Ministry official said the plane's appearance in Europe would not help ease tensions between the West and Russia.
A former Russian Air Force commander called the move "disrespectful."
Russian air defence systems detected the U.S. bomber at around 1000 Moscow time as it was flying over neutral waters parallel to the Russian border and sent a Sukhoi Su-27 jet to intercept it, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
"The Russian SU-27 crew, having approached at a safe distance, identified the aircraft as an American B-52 strategic bomber and escorted it" until such time as it changed course and flew away from the border area, the ministry said.
Russia said the SU-27 took off from its Baltic Fleet air defence unit, which is based in the European exclave of Kaliningrad.
The U.S. military said its aircraft was in international airspace and declined immediate comment on the Russian plane's actions.
"We can confirm that the U.S. Air Force B-52 was operating in international airspace but we don't have any information to provide at this time regarding the behaviour of Russian aircraft," Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said.