Russia's defense ministry said Thursday that it would continue to tail U.S. aircraft flying near its territory over the Black Sea and suggested the Navy give its pilots updated maps showing the Crimean Peninsula within Russian borders.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe reported on Monday that a Russian fighter flew within 5 feet of an EP-3 reconnaissance plane, which was deemed an unsafe maneuver. The incident occurred over international airspace, the Navy said.
Russia on Thursday said the U.S. plane was flying near the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, sparking Cold War-like tensions with the West.
"The Russian military believes that when it dispatches air pilots on reconnaissance missions in this part of the Black Sea the United States should keep in mind that they will encounter Russian fighters, and not Ukrainian partners," said the Russian Defense Ministry, as quoted by state media. "Or supply all crews with updated maps showing the correct borders of Russia's airspace."
In November, a Russian fighter intercepted a Navy P-8 aircraft in a similar incident over the Black Sea, where close air encounters between Russia and the U.S. have become commonplace.
In a message to the Navy's 6th Fleet, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a "reminder" that "Crimea is an integral part of Russia."
The U.S. military and State Department, however, blamed Russia for engaging in maneuvers that increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions.
"The United States notes with the highest level of concern the latest incident of unsafe Russian military practices," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday. "While the U.S. aircraft was operating under international law, the Russian side was flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law."