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NATO, Russian planes nearly collide

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MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Moscow has said that a United States (US) plane threatened civilian aircraft but “catastrophe” was avoided when a Russian passenger plane dived to avoid the NATO reconnaissance aircraft that crossed its path above the Black Sea.

On Friday morning a NATO CL600 reconnaissance aircraft descended rapidly across the planned route for a Tel Aviv to Moscow Aeroflot service with 142 people on board, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (FATA) said in a statement.

The Aeroflot flight reportedly had to drop 500 meters to keep its distance from the reconnaissance aircraft, which the pilots saw from the cockpit with the naked eye.

A second plane, a smaller CL650 aircraft, flying from the Black Sea resort Sochi to Skopje, the capital of Northern Macedonia, also had to divert to avoid the spy plane, the Russian air transport authority said Saturday.

“The direction and altitude of the commercial flights were immediately altered” to avoid a collision, the agency said, adding that the unknown plane did not respond to radio hails from air traffic control.

While the FATA did not say which nation had operated the spy plane, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova indicated on Sunday that the reconnaissance aircraft belonged to the US.

“The actions of the US Air Force have created a threat to civil aviation,” Zakharova said on messaging app Telegram.

FATA said it would lodge a diplomatic protest.

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