We are at forefront of challenge to Russian threat, says RAF chief

The RAF is at the forefront of efforts to respond to increasing Russian hostility, the head of the air force said as he branded the country's cyberspace actions as "criminal".

The comments made by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier come in the wake of the Novichok nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

In recent days more than 115 Russian diplomats have also been expelled across the globe in a diplomatic backlash against the Kremlin following the attack earlier this month.

Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the move and said it sent a strong message to Moscow that it cannot ignore international law.

On Tuesday, ahead of the centenary of the RAF on Sunday, Air Chief Marshal Hillier said: "The post-War consensus that has provided the basis for the rules-based international order is being challenged and undermined.

"We must respond, collectively with our NATO and other partners, to counter hostile acts by Russia against our countries, our interests and our values.

"The RAF is in the forefront of that effort."

During his lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Air Chief Marshal Hillier said that no one expected a return to the "potential state-based conflict and threats from Russia".

He added of those threats: "Military grade nerve agent being used for attempted murder on the streets of our country; the reckless and indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syria.

"The illegal annexation of Crimea, the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly annexed territory from another in Europe; the criminal activities of the Russian state in cyberspace."

Air Chief Marshal Hillier also revealed that the RAF is the busiest it has been in at least a generation - undertaking the most sustained period of high intensity war fighting since the Second World War.

With 13 operations in 21 countries on five continents, he said the RAF's work includes fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to defending British skies, as well as Nato operations in Europe and Afghanistan.

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