Russia claims Tel Aviv-Moscow flight had to divert to avoid crash with NATO spy plane

A Russian plane with more than 140 people on board had to change course to avoid a collision with a NATO spy plane, according to Moscow authorities.

Transport officials in Russia claim the plane “quickly descended” over the planned route of a Tel Aviv-Moscow Aeroflot service with 142 passengers on board over the Black Sea late Saturday.

According to reports, the Airbus A330 had to lower its path 500 meters to keep a safe distance from the CL-600 Artemis aircraft, which pilots could see from the cockpit.

One report claimed there was less than 20 meters (66 feet) vertically between the planes’ paths.

According to reports, the Airbus A330 had to lower its path by 500 meters (1,600 feet) to keep a safe distance from the CL-600 Artemis, which pilots could see from the cockpit

One report claimed there was less than 20 meters (66ft) between the planes' paths

One report claimed there was less than 20 meters (66ft) between the planes’ paths

A second plane, a private jet flying from Sochi to Skopje in northern Macedonia, also had to deviate from its path to avoid the plane, according to the Russian transport authority.

Russian media reported that fighter jets were deployed on Friday to escort two US spy planes over the Black Sea region.

According to Russian reports, an air traffic controller said: “One of the two reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea chaotically crossed established civil air routes and approached the passenger Airbus Tel Aviv-Moscow.

The crew (of the passenger plane) reported that the dangerous approach alarm went off. There was less than 20 meters of vertical between the aircraft.

Aeroflot's A330 (pictured) had to change its flight path to avoid a collision

Aeroflot’s A330 (pictured) had to change its flight path to avoid a collision

The NATO spy plane was visible to pilots of the commercial flight over the Black Sea

The NATO spy plane was visible to pilots of the commercial flight over the Black Sea

An official from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency added: “The directions and levels of flights of civilian aircraft were immediately changed.

“Through the measures taken, Russian air traffic controllers have ensured the safe operation of flights in the above-mentioned area over the open waters of the Black Sea.”

Russian news agency Interfax said: “The offending aircraft did not respond to requests from the ground.

“Increasing activity of NATO aircraft near Russian borders … creates a risk of dangerous accidents with civilian aircraft,” adding that it would file a diplomatic protest.

The plane is believed to have flown from an air force base in Greece.

The near miss comes as tensions mount between Russia and Western countries, amid allegations that Moscow is gathering troops on the border with Ukraine in preparation for an invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) has long accused the West of provocation with their open invitation to Ukraine to join NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) has long accused the West of provocation with their open invitation to Ukraine to join NATO

Reports say President Joe Biden (pictured) is likely to speak with Vladimir Putin soon

Reports say President Joe Biden (pictured) is likely to speak with Vladimir Putin soon

A satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on Nov. 1 shows troops gathering near the city of Yelnya.  Washington's warning comes as Putin gathers his forces close to Ukrainian territory, with satellite images like this one taken in recent weeks showing large camps of tanks and artillery pieces in the region

A satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on Nov. 1 shows troops gathering near the city of Yelnya. Washington’s warning comes as Putin gathers his forces close to Ukrainian territory, with satellite images like this one taken in recent weeks showing large camps of tanks and artillery pieces in the region

An unclassified intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post shows satellite images of troops and equipment built around the border with Ukraine.

Photos taken in June around Yelnya, near the northern border between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, showed empty land. On November 9, five Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) were present, as the photos showed.

In 2014, similar scenes were replicated along the Russian-Ukrainian border near Crimea before Russia took the strategic port on the Black Sea.

Russia has denied such plans, accusing NATO countries of “provocations”, including military exercises near its borders.

According to Russian reports, Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden will speak on December 7.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm on Thursday.

Blinken warned Moscow of the “serious costs” Russia would have to pay if it invaded Ukraine, and on Thursday urged its Russian counterpart to seek a diplomatic way out of the crisis.

“I have made very clear our deep concern and determination to hold Russia accountable for its actions, including our commitment to work with European allies to impose serious costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.” Blinken said at a press conference. after the meeting.

“It is now up to Russia to de-escalate current tensions by undoing the recent troop build-up, returning troops to normal peacetime positions and refraining from further intimidation and attempts to destabilize Ukraine.”

Lavrov, who spoke to reporters before his talks with Blinken, said Moscow was ready for a dialogue with Kiev.

“We, as President Putin has stated, do not want conflict,” he said.

Blinken stated before the meeting: “We do not know whether President Putin made the decision to invade.

“We do know that he is building the capacity to do this in the short term, should he decide to do so.

“We must prepare for all unforeseen circumstances.”

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