Update: Aurora Airlines has denied that one of its planes nearly collided with another aircraft – let alone a NATO military plane. The airline's comments directly contradict earlier reports by the Interfax news agency, which cited a source within Russian security services.
"It's complete nonsense, and isn't even worth commenting on," a company representative told the RIA Novosti news agency.
"The flight was carried normally," Aurora Press Secretary Tatiana Kozyreva told the TASS news agency.
A Russian passenger plane flying off the country’s far east coast nearly collided with an unknown aircraft overnight, according to reports. Now, a source in Russia's security services alleges that the unknown plane was a NATO military jet.
According to the RBC News Agency, the passenger aircraft in question was a Bombardier turboprop plane, flying with Aurora Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot Russian Airlines. It was completing a journey from Russia’s Sakhalin peninsula to the Kuril Islands.
Air traffic controllers noticed another aircraft approaching at the same altitude, the unnamed source told the Interfax news agency. The unknown plane did not respond to radio signals, and crossed without permission into the passenger liner’s air corridor. As a result, the passenger plane made an emergency descent to avoid a collision.
Air traffic controllers repeatedly tried to contact the unknown aircraft, but the pilot never answered. However, they did manage to record the signal of the plane’s radar transponder. According to international classifications, it belongs to a NATO aircraft, the source said.
So far, however, there has been no confirmation that the unknown aircraft indeed belonged the Western military alliance.
In recent years, European countries have repeatedly accused Russian military aircrafts of violating their airspace. Violations of Russian airspace by NATO planes have been a far less common occurrence.
In 2014, then NATO Commander Philip Breedlove said that Russia used airspace violations "to demonstrate that they are a great power."