At a moment US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is on an official visit to countries in the Black Sea region, namely Ukraine, Romania, and Georgia, there's been an intercept incident on Wednesday between Russia and the US over the Black Sea.
"Russia scrambled two Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to escort two US B-1B strategic bombers over the Black Sea," Reuters reports based on Russian Defense Ministry statements. "A similar incident occurred on Sunday over the Sea of Japan, just days after an incident with a US naval destroyer, also in the far east."
The Defense ministry stressed that "A violation of Russia’s state border was not allowed" after the US bombers were said to be approaching the border. The pair of US bombers were reportedly escorted also by two KC-135 tanker planes, making four total US aircraft in the group.
The Russian military statement indicated the following details: "On October 19, 2021, Russian airspace control pinpointed air targets approaching Russia’s state border over the neutral waters of the Black Sea. Two Su-30 fighter jets from the naval aviation and air defense forces took off to identify the air targets and prevent a violation of Russia’s state border," it said.
"The Ministry of Defense noted that following the turnaround of foreign military aircraft from Russia’s state border, the Su-30s safely returned to the airfield base," the statement noted. It subsequently shared footage of the US aircraft being escorted by the Russian fighters.
Currently B-1B bombers are deployed for a series of NATO exercises focused across the regions of the Black Sea, Baltic, and the Arctic, according to recent US military reports.
The timing of this new Black Sea intercept incident, which in the recent past has not been uncommon, is interesting given Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is currently wrapping up his visit to US-friendly and allied countries along the Black Sea.
Wheels down in Kyiv. I'm here to reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations — and to express our commitment to build Ukraine’s capacity to deter further Russian aggression. pic.twitter.com/IUTnQpumfT— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) October 19, 2021
He issued provocative statements from Kiev yesterday while standing alongside his Ukrainian counterpart Andrii Taran:
"Let's be clear, that Russia started this war and Russia is the obstacle to a peaceful resolution," Austin said.
We again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine’s borders, and to halt its persistent cyber attacks. pic.twitter.com/LgXdKWYCfN— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) October 19, 2021
He additionally urged Moscow to "end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine's borders."
Within days before his much anticipated eastern Europe trip, a defense official told The Washington Times that Austin would encourage Ukraine and Georgia to continue their path to NATO membership, and that the Pentagon chief would stress an "open door" to the Atlantic military alliance - however which Russian leaders have called a "red line" for which they would act.