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Russia nearly shoots down British reconnaissance plane near Ukraine

Apr 10, 2023

A Russian fighter jet nearly shot down a British spy plane last year, an incident that turned out to be more significant than previously reported and could have drawn the United States and its NATO allies directly into the war in Ukraine.

The Washington Post reports this with reference to one of the US military documents recently leaked online.

The incident occurred on September 29 off the coast of occupied Crimea.

One of the dozens of leaked Pentagon classified documents that led to the Justice Department's investigation refers to the incident as "a near miss with a British RJ aircraft," better known as an RC-135. This aircraft is used to collect radio messages and other electronic communications.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described the incident to the House of Commons in October, saying that two Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted the RC-135 in international airspace over the Black Sea, flying "recklessly," with one aircraft coming within 15 feet (5 meters) of the British plane.


One of the Russian aircraft "fired a missile" from a distance, Wallace told lawmakers at the time. But he did not describe the incident as "nearly shot down" and attributed the missile launch to a "technical malfunction." He said he had spoken to Russian defense officials about it.

The incident underscores the balancing act that Western militaries are trying to strike as they seek to assist the Ukrainian military and gather information about the war without directly confronting Moscow. Russian officials are trying to portray NATO countries as aggressors, while the United States and its allies say they support Ukraine but are not at war with Russia.

According to the NATO treaty, if a member of the military alliance is the victim of an armed attack, all members of the alliance consider it an attack on them and respond collectively.

Representatives of the US Defense Department refused to comment on the content of the leaked document, as they did with other information found on Discord, Telegram, and Twitter. An official at the British Embassy in Washington also declined to comment.

Author - Olena Madiak, 10/04/2023

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