Passenger jet diverted off Irish coast to avoid Russian bombers

Two Tu-95 bombers flew into Irish airspace with transponders turned off before RAF saw them off

Russian startegic bomber TU-95 surrounded by MiG-29 flies over Monino airfield, some 40 km from Moscow, during an air show marking 95th anniversary of foundation of Russian Air Forces, 11 Aug
(Image credit: 2007 AFP)

Two Russian bombers flying in Irish-controlled airspace forced a commercial plane carrying hundreds of people to divert in mid-air and delayed another plane's take-off from Dublin airport.

The Tu-95 bombers, which flew just 46km off the coast with their transponders turned off, "criss-crossed into major civilian airline traffic lanes" on 18 February, reports the Irish Examiner.

The bombers are believed to be the same ones that entered British airspace that day, when RAF Typhoon fighters were scrambled to see them off.

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"The move was seen as a show of strength by Russia amid tensions over the conflict in Ukraine," says the Daily Telegraph.

David Cameron is among the European leaders to accuse Vladimir Putin of challenging the territorial integrity of Ukraine, where 11 months of conflict has left more than 6,000 people dead.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) told the Irish Examiner that, at the request of its British counterparts, it had delayed one aircraft's departure from Dublin and rerouted another aircraft in the air to ensure its pathway was "sufficiently separated" from the track of the two Russian bombers.

It added that there had been "no safety impact to civilian traffic in Irish controlled airspace".

Ireland's defence minister Simon Coveney said the government "was clearly not happy" about the incident, but added: "I'd be surprised if it was a Russian tactic to upset Ireland, and the IAA managed the incident safely and effectively."

It was the second time in just two weeks that Russian bombers flew into Irish air space without warning. Following the first incursion, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said it had sought reassurances from the Russian ambassador that its military aircraft would not fly into its area of control without advance notification, especially if their transponders were off.

"That request seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the Kremlin," says the Examiner.

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