Russian fighter pilots have been regularly provoking clashes with RAF aircraft over the Black Sea, according to recent revelations from top-secret Pentagon documents. Shockingly, the released records also disclose that in September of last year, a Russian Su-27 interceptor pilot misread orders and attempted to launch an air-to-air missile against an RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint spy aircraft.
Fortunately, the Russian missile misfired, and the RAF plane’s 30-person crew escaped unscathed.
This discovery contradicts previous remarks by UK defence minister Ben Wallace, who downplayed the severity of the situation by claiming that the missile was only launched “in the vicinity” of the British plane.
According to newly released US intelligence documents, the encounter was a “near shoot down,” emphasising the gravity of the situation and the possibility of escalation to a full-fledged battle between NATO and Russia.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, John Foreman, a former British defence attaché in Russia, argued that there seems to be an order to prevent US and UK aircraft from approaching Russian airspace too closely.
Mr Foreman told The Times: “The order seems to have gone out to not let the US and UK get too close to Russian airspace,”
“As a result of all the failures in the south, Black Sea fleet aircraft are much more aggressive than elsewhere, acting unsafely and unprofessionally.”
He added: The Russians should not be releasing missiles against reconnaissance aircraft through their own incompetence.
“They reached out subsequently to say it was a mistake because it’s not in their own interests to escalate.”
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It comes as the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking the highly classified US military documents appeared in court Friday as prosecutors unsealed charges and revealed how billing records and interviews with social media comrades helped pinpoint the suspect.
AP has reported that the social media platform Discord provided information that helped lead the FBI to guardsman Jack Teixeira, and that Teixeira used his government computer to search for the word “leak” on the day last week when news media reports revealed that classified documents had been improperly disclosed.
President Joe Biden has said the US government is working to determine “the validity” of the leaked documents.
He said in a White House statement: “I have directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our national security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies.”
Friday’s new details about the highest-profile intelligence leak in years shed light on how investigators came to zero in on Teixeira, 21, even though a motive for the disclosures remains publicly unexplained.
The Justice Department has said its investigation is continuing, and the Pentagon, which earlier in the week called it a serious national security breach, said it would conduct its own review of access to sensitive intelligence to prevent a similar leak in the future.
Teixeira appeared in federal court in Boston to face charges, under the Espionage Act, of unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defence information.
He did not enter a plea, but a federal magistrate judge ordered him jailed until a detention hearing next week.
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