UK says scrambled jets to see off Russian planes near Baltics

LONDON, June 18 Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:15am EDT

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LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it had scrambled Typhoon fighter jets to intercept seven Russian military aircraft flying near the Baltic states as tensions between the West and Russia over the Ukraine crisis remained high.

NATO last month tripled the number of fighter jets patrolling the Baltics to beef up the alliance's defences in Eastern Europe, with Britain contributing four typhoons to the operation.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday it had launched the Typhoons on Tuesday after four separate groups of aircraft were detected in international airspace near the Baltics by NATO air defences.

It said the aircraft had been identified as a Russian Tupolev Tu-22 bomber, four Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, one Beriev A-50 early warning aircraft, and an Antonov An-26 transport aircraft.

They appeared to be carrying out routine training, it said.

"The Russian aircraft were monitored by the RAF Typhoons and escorted on their way," the ministry said in a statement. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Andrew Osborn)