Russian Jets Intercepted Near U.S. and Canadian Airspace

Russian Jets Intercepted Near U.S. and Canadian Airspace
Source: AP
Source: AP

Two U.S. jets intercepted six Russian planes that neared U.S. airspace off Alaska on Thursday and Canadian planes intercepted two Russian bombers that approached Canadian airspace, NORAD told CNN and Canada's CBC News on Thursday.

The two Tupolev Tu-95 long-range bombers, commonly referred to as "Bears," came within 60 to 100 kilometers of Canadian airspace in the early morning hours Thursday, NORAD told CTV News. NORAD radar detected the aircraft around 1:30 a.m. PT and scrambled two CF-18s fighter jets from undisclosed location in northwest Canada. The Russian planes turned back after making contact.

CNN's Barbara Starr quoted a U.S. official who said that "officials in Washington think the incidents were related to the visit by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who talked to Canadian officials Wednesday and President Barack Obama on Thursday. The United States promised Ukraine $46 million in nonlethal aid for its battle with pro-Russian militants."

"It is Europe's and it is America's war now, too. It is the war for the free world," Poroshenko said.

The U.S. has promised Ukraine $46 million in nonlethal aid for its battle with pro-Russian militants.

Russia jets have been flouting international space more than usual this week. The British Royal Air Force also scrambled jets on Thursday after another detachment of "Bear" bombers were spotted getting too close to British airspace, Sky News reports. And on Wednesday, two Russian Su-24 attack planes actually entered Swedish airspace over the island of Öland, according to the Local. Sweden then scrambled its own fighter jets to intercept the intruders, who retreated.

So what's Russia up to this week? The Week's Kyle Mizokami suggests that these minor transgressions of international boundaries are part of a subtle show of strength, a defining feature of Russian diplomacy under President Vladimir Putin. Russian Bears buzz U.S. airspace as a way to remind NATO countries — like, say, Finland and Canada — of Putin's nuclear capabilities.

Editors Note: Mar. 3, 2015 

An earlier version of this article cited CNN reporting, but did not include quotations around the cited passage. The story has been updated to fully attribute CNN's language.