U.S. intercepts Russian jets over Syria, sends warning flares

By Susan McFarland  |  Dec. 14, 2017 at 2:05 PM
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Dec. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. military jets intercepted two Russian aircraft over Syria Thursday -- and fired warning flares, officials said.

The U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors interceded with the Russian Su-25s as they flew into a designated de-confliction zone east of the Euphrates River.

The Russian planes left after the flare warnings, but officials said the encounter lasted for several minutes as Moscow's jets crossed the de-confliction zone several times.

According to United States Air Forces Central Command, Russia regularly crosses the lines -- and even did so as many as eight times a day last month.

To help prevent collisions, military officials from Russia and the United States agreed last month to fly on opposite sides of a 45-mile portion of the Euphrates River.

"The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our ground forces," USAF spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told CNN. "As coalition leaders have repeatedly said, we're here to fight [the Islamic State] -- not the Russians or anyone else."

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Vietnam last month, reaffirmed their commitment to open communication between military officials to ensure safety of both countries as they partner in the fight against terrorism. The Kremlin has supported the Syrian government's fight against the terror group.

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