RAF jets scrambled as Russia’s Putin uses Brexit day for raid into British airspace

The Russian aircraft were spotted speeding towards UK airspace just before MPs were due to vote on Brexit – an act seen as a deliberately-timed provocation.

A military source called the incident a “destabilising pre-Brexit incursion”, occurring just hours before MPs were due to vote on the Prime Minister’s deal and on the same day the UK had planned to leave the European Union.

The source added: “The facts of the matter though are this kind of aggressive behaviour is now to be expected of them.

“Recently we’ve seen a growing number of these kind of flights into UK airspace. It’s a show of arms but one we’ve always countered and have always been ready for.”

The two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were flying over the North Sea when the RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon fighters were deployed from their base in Lossiemouth, Moray, north Scotland.

Oxfordshire-based refuelling tanker, The Voyager, was also deployed from an RAF station in Brize Norton to accompany the Typhoons, reported Sky News.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Blackjacks’ planned flight lasted for more than 134 hours so they too needed to be refuelled.

NATO top brass were informed and officers were working closely with the RAF during Friday’s raid. It was around midday when the Russian Blackjacks were identified off the coast of Scotland.

The British fighters reacted quickly and intercepted the Russian planes at about 12:17pm, close to the Aberdeenshire coast.

Just two days prior to this, on Wednesday March 27, a similar incident had occurred, although RAF jets had not needed to intercept Russian bombers on that occasion.

There were also reports earlier in March that the Royal Navy had shadowed a Russian vessel which entered the Moray Firth, north and east of Inverness, and may have been carrying a pilot destabilising weapon described as ‘vomit inducing’, according to The Scotsman.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “The RAF routinely identify, intercept, and escort Russian aircraft that transit international airspace within proximity to the UK’s area of interest and continue to be on call every day.

“This is the second time this week RAF aircraft have taken to the air to investigate Russian activity, following a similar incident on Wednesday evening, but on that occasion an intercept by the Typhoons was not necessary.”

The Russian Defence Ministry said: “Two Tu-160 strategic bombers have performed a planned flight above the neutral waters of the Barents, Norwegian, and North seas,” as reported by Russian news agency TASS.

The ministry added that Russian Long-Range Aviation pilots fly these sorts of patrol missions frequently.

They are performed above neutral waters in the Arctic and North Atlantic regions, the Black and Caspian seas, and the Pacific Ocean. These missions only ever comply with international rules on airspace use.

The MoD confirmed that the RAF jets were monitoring the Blackjacks as they passed through international airspace before they “escorted them from the UK’s area of interest and ensured that they did not enter UK sovereign airspace.”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our brave RAF pilots have shown again that we are ready to respond to any threat to the UK. Alongside our NATO allies, we must remain vigilant and aware of Russian military activity.”

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