Russian provocation or UK over-reaction?

Some breaking news from the BBC is potentially a bit disturbing – Russian military jets ‘disrupted UK aviation’

Russian military planes flying near UK airspace caused “disruption to civil aviation” on Wednesday, the UK Foreign Office said.

It said the Russian aircraft did not enter UK airspace, but the manoeuvres were “part of increasing pattern of out-of-area operations” by Russia.

The planes were “escorted” by RAF jets “throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest”, officials added.

Russia’s ambassador has been summoned to “account for the incident”.

Diplomatic type language is used but for this to be reported and for the ambassador to be summoned it must be causing someone some concern.

More detail and comment from Reuters – Britain says fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers

British Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Bear long-range bombers which had flown close to UK airspace, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Thursday.

The Russian planes were detected flying over the Channel, south of England, on Wednesday and typhoons were launched from Royal Air Force (RAF) bases at Lossiemouth in Scotland and Coningsby in eastern England, the MoD said.

“The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Last year, NATO conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft, about three times as many as in 2013, amid sharply increased tensions between the West and Moscow over theUkraine crisis.

Elizabeth Quintana, a senior research fellow at defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute said Wednesday’s incident was unusual however, and could be linked to Britain beginning an inquiry into the death nine years ago in London of Kremlin critic and ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

“Normally Russian Bears come past Norway and down the North Sea. It could have been used to probe the RAF speed of reaction south,” she told the Daily Mail newspaper.

“Flying any military aircraft in or close to the sovereign airspace of another country signals displeasure or at worst aggression.”

And another side to the story: Russia Says Air Force Flight Near UK Complies With International Law

MOSCOW, January 29 (Sputnik) — Two Russian Air Force strategic bombers spotted near British airspace were conducting a planned 19-hour flight over the North Atlantic and did not breach international regulations or any nation’s borders, a Russian Air Force spokesman said Thursday.

“Two [Tupolev] Tu-95MS [Bear] strategic bombers… successfully completed the planned air patrols. The flight route passed through neutral waters near the Barents and Norwegian Seas, [as well as] the Atlantic Ocean. The flight duration was over 19 hours,” Col. Igor Klimov told RIA Novosti.

According to Klimov, Russian strategic bombers were planned to be escorted by RAF Typhoon aircraft, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage fighters at different stages on their route.

The spokesman reiterated that the flight had been performed with strict adherence to international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating states’ sovereign borders.

Complying with international law doesn’t mean it wasn’t deliberately provocative.

Or is the UK making more of this than it warrants?