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September 22, 2017

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US Air Force plane is intercepted by Russian jet in 'unsafe' manner: Pentagon

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 jet in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner while in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Pentagon said Saturday.

"The U.S. aircraft was operating in international airspace and at no time crossed into Russian territory," Laura Seal, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said of Thursday's incident.

It came shortly after Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this past week, including an incident Tuesday in which a Russian Su-24 flew 30 feet (nine meters) above the war ship in a "simulated attack profile," according to the U.S. military's European Command.

Russia has denied the actions were reckless or provocative but they have been seen as exacerbating tensions between the rival powers.

"This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved," Seal said of the latest incident in a statement.

"More importantly, the unsafe and unprofessional actions of a single pilot have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries."

The U.S. aircraft in question was an RC-135 and the Pentagon said it had been flying a routine route.

"There have been repeated incidents over the last year where Russian military aircraft have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns, and we are very concerned with any such behavior," the Pentagon said.

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