Russian military planes were discovered flying past the west coast of Ireland recently before being intercepted by British Fighter jets, it has emerged.
Long-range search radars in the UK detected two Russian Tu-95 “Bears” in the “UK flight information region” last Wednesday, the British Royal Air Force has said.
According to reports, the planes flew in from the north, past the west coast of Ireland and then east towards the English Channel before going back the same way.
Fighter jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, and RAF Coningsby near Boston, Lincolnshire. Once airborne, the Typhoons were directed to intercept the Russian planes, which were escorted out of the region.
The Typhoons were refuelled in the air during the incident by the RAF’s Voyager aircraft.
An RAF spokesman said: “Yesterday’s mission lasted for over 12 hours; the operations room was both calm and focused.
“Thanks to our integration with air defence systems across Nato, we were able to begin mission planning early and therefore were ready to act in good time.
“Once ordered to by the Nato Combined Air Operations Centre in Germany, Typhoon quick reaction alert fighters were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to intercept and identify the aircraft.”
The British Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Russian aircraft manoeuvres yesterday are part of an increasing pattern of out-of-area operations by Russian aircraft.
“While the Russian planes did not enter sovereign UK airspace and were escorted by RAF Typhoons throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest, the Russian planes caused disruption to civil aviation.
“That is why we summoned the Russian Ambassador today to account for the incident.”
A former RAF pilot has suggested the presence of Russian military planes could be linked to the Litvinenko inquiry.
Andrew Brookes, a fellow of UK defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said he wondered about the timing of their arrival yesterday.
Mr Brookes told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They are basically strutting their stuff around the globe.
“Litvinenko ... I just wonder sometimes whether because of the timing of that inquiry this is somehow of associated with that.
“Just to say ’you might have your way of doing things, but don’t forget we can still project our power the way we want to do it’.
“There is no threat, but it’s a massive disruption. It’s basically two fingers from the Russians.”
It was a way of saying that Russia is “still a force to be reckoned with on the world stage” that should be taken into account, he added.
The inquiry into the death of poisoned Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko began this week.
He died from radiation poisoning in London in 2006, nearly three weeks after he drank tea laced with polonium.
The former KGB agent, who fled to the UK, was a vocal critic of the Kremlin and worked for MI6.