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Russia ‘threatened to shoot down French aircraft over Black Sea’

Sébastien Lecornu, France’s defence minister, said the ‘behaviour of Russia in 2024 bears no relation to what we saw in 2022’
Sébastien Lecornu, France’s defence minister, said the ‘behaviour of Russia in 2024 bears no relation to what we saw in 2022’ - Aurelien Morissard/AP Photo

Russian forces threatened to shoot down a French patrol plane over the Black Sea in a signal of increasingly hostile behaviour.

On Thursday, Sébastien Lecornu, France’s defence minister, said that Russia is returning to a “particularly aggressive” posture reminiscent of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“A month ago, to give you a very concrete example, a Russian air traffic control system threatened to shoot down French aircraft in the Black Sea when we were in a free international zone where we patrol,” he said on RTL radio.

“The behaviour of Russia in 2024 bears no relation to what we saw in 2022 and, obviously, before the aggression in Ukraine,” the minister said. “It is explained by the fact that Russia is in difficulty on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

French aircraft can spot missile launches, airborne bombing runs and other military activity in the Ukraine conflict
French aircraft can spot missile launches, airborne bombing runs and other military activity in the Ukraine conflict - Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/Shutterstock

French air force pilots regularly patrol on the eastern flank of Nato, part of efforts by the 31-nation military alliance to boost its defences since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine two years ago come Saturday.

French flights include long-range patrols by its AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance aircraft.

Stationed high above the Black Sea coast, they use their powerful radar and other monitoring gear to peer across to the Crimean Peninsula that was seized from Ukraine by Russia and annexed in 2014.

French flights include long-range patrols by the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance aircraft
French flights include long-range patrols by the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance aircraft - Jacques Witt/SIPA/Shutterstock

This surveillance can spot missile launches, airborne bombing runs and other military activity in the Ukraine conflict.

Russian pilots have at times made clear that they do not like being watched. In 2022, a fighter jet released a missile near a Royal Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft that was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea, the UK Government said.

The United States government released video in March 2023 of a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a US Air Force surveillance drone. The drone crashed into the Black Sea.