Daily Israel Report

Turkey Scrambles Fighter Jets Over Russian Plane

Possible new front opens in Ukraine-Russia standoff, which has escalated with Russian missile tests and shots fired in air.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 3/5/2014, 1:13 AM

F-16 fighter jet (file)
F-16 fighter jet (file)
Flash 90

As the Ukrainian-Russian standoff has threatened to escalate into all-out war, a new front nearly opened on Monday, as Turkey scrambled fighter jets in response to a Russian surveillance plane that flew along Turkey's Black Sea coast.

Eight F-16 fighter jets were scrambled in the event, according to a Turkish military statement on Tuesday reported by the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. The statement noted the Russian plane did not end up entering Turkish air space.

Turkey borders the Black Sea on the south, while the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula is at the sea's north, and has been the site of the military standoff between Russia and Ukraine. Russia has voiced upset that its ally, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was forced to flee the country due to a popular movement that successfully installed a pro-West interim government.

Russia reportedly sent 6,000 troops to take over the Belbek Air Base in Crimea on Saturday; on Tuesday, Ukrainian soldiers that were previously stationed at the base approached it, at which point the Russians fired into the air, reports BBC.

Russia's military posturing continued as a nuclear-capable Topol RS-12M missile was launched near the Caspian Sea on Tuesday afternoon. While Russia frequently tests missiles, the timing of the test has raised tensions further.

Political positioning during the standoff
Despite the reporting on the ground, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that no Russian troops were in Crimea, even as he acknowledged that any Russian action in the area was a "humanitarian mission" to "protect" ethnic-Russians in the region.

"I want you to understand clearly: if we do this, it will only be to protect local people," stated Putin on Tuesday, referring to Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

US Secretary of State John Kerry responded on Tuesday, saying "Russia has talked about Russian-speaking citizens being under siege. They're not."

The Russian moves of aggression sparked the US to threaten Russia with sanctions on Monday. The American administration also noted it was discussing sending $1 billion in loan guarantees to provide structural support to Ukraine's economy.

The wider aspect of global politics in the conflict were noted by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) on Sunday, who called US President Barack Obama's threats against Putin last Friday empty. "We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression," added Graham.