UK defence officials discuss Russian aircraft 'incursions' with Moscow


Defence officials have held talks with their Russian counterparts following a number of "incursions" by aircraft around Britain, the Defence Secretary has said.

Discussions were held in Moscow to find ways of heading off any "miscalculation or accident" following repeated incidents involving Russian aircraft over recent months, Michael Fallon said.

Typhoon jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in November to intercept two planes that were detected flying over the Atlantic.

Although Russian planes have not entered UK airspace they have flown close to the border, which is known as a "British area of interest".

Speaking at the Atlantic Council think-tank in the United States, Mr Fallon said: "There have been discussions with Russia about setting up some means of avoiding any miscalculation with its long range aviation.

"We have seen a number of incursions into the British flight information region over recent months. We've been pressing for ways of avoiding any miscalculation or accident because these aircraft have not been responding to communications from air traffic control, or indeed signals from the planes we send up to intercept them.

"There was discussion of that at a meeting over in Moscow."

Mr Fallon dismissed claims that Britain and Russia had made plans for "collaboration" over bombing campaigns against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The Defence Secretary said there had been a "resurgence in Russian aggression" over the last five years.

"This attempt in the Crimea and Ukraine to change international borders by force, the constant pressure on the Baltic states, the increase in long range aviation, the increase in submarine activity, means we have to regard now, sadly, Russia as more of a competitor and a threat that we have to take measures against, not least because of the increase in their own defence spending both on nuclear and conventional forces," he said.

"So, yes, Russian aggression is something we have to counter and the Russian threat is something we cannot ignore."