July 22 (UPI) -- A Venezuelan fighter jet "aggressively shadowed" a U.S. Navy aircraft, endangering the safety of its crew and the completion of its mission, U.S. Southern Command said.
U.S. Southern Command said Sunday that a Russian-made SU-30 Flanker Venezuelan fighter jet followed a U.S. EP-3 Aries II aircraft at an "unsafe distance" in international airspace for an extended period of time on Friday.
"After reviewing video documentation, we have determined the Russian-made fighter aggressively shadowed the EP-3 at an unsafe distance," it said.
U.S. military said it routinely conducts "detection and monitoring missions" in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea to ensure the protection of its interests and allies, and the EP-3 plane was in compliance with international rules and standards at the time of the incident.
The U.S. military then accused embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of wasting his country's dwindling resources to engage in "unprovoked and unjustified acts."
"The Maduro regime continues to undermine internationally recognized laws and demonstrates its contempt for international agreements authorizing the United States and other nations to safely conduct flights in international airspace," U.S. Southern Command said.
Venezuela denied the charge and accused the United States of having violated the "security of air operations and international treaties," CNN reported.
Southern Command said its use of a Russia plane demonstrates Moscow's continuous support of the "illegitimate Maduro regime."
The United States and Maduro have been in direct conflict since Venezuela's National Assembly deemed his re-election as president as illegitimate. The Trump administration then backed opposition leader Juan Guaido's claim to the country's helm and has repeatedly called for Maduro to step down.