Moscow: Russia has denied British claims that its Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers had violated UK airspace earlier this month.
"Tu-160 strategic bombers did indeed make routine flights over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans on March 10, but there were no airspace violations," Russian Air Force spokesman Lt Col Vladimir Drik was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
The British Defence Ministry yesterday said that two RAF Tornado F3 fighters scrambled to intercept the Russian bombers allegedly intruded the country's airspace northwest of Scotland.
The British statement said the fighters accompanied the Russian bombers until they left British airspace.
Lt Col Drik reminded that the Russian Air Force had distributed an official statement on March 12, which said that two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers had carried out an 11-hour routine patrol mission over the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and were shadowed by four NATO fighters - two NATO F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Norwegian Air Force and two RAF Tornados.
"All flights of Air Force aircraft were and are fulfilled in strict compliance with the international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violation of other states' borders," the Russian Air Force spokesman underscored.
A similar patrol mission in September 2009 was shadowed by an F-22 Raptor, reportedly the first time the world's only fifth-generation fighter aircraft, which uses stealth technology, was sent out to keep an eye on Russian planes.
In August 2007, the then president Vladimir Putin had ordered the resumption of patrolling of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans by Russian strategic bombers, which was stopped after the Soviet collapse in 1991.
First Published: Friday, March 26, 2010, 15:52