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US intercepts Russian warplanes near Alaska

By Sarah May
|
February 19, 2023

Four Russian warplanes were intercepted by the U.S. military on Monday, according to a statement issued Thursday by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), as The Hill reports.

It was also announced this week that two Russian strategic bombers were intercepted by the military on Feb. 13, according to ABC News.

Four planes intercepted

As The Hill noted, NORAD revealed that it had detected aircraft that included TU-95 BEAR-H bombers as well as SU-35 planes that had entered and operated inside an area known as the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

According to officials with the agency, the Russian flight activity was expected, and that led to the military's swift ability to scramble a pair of F-16 fighter jets to intercept the planes.

NORAD further noted that a pair of F-35A fighters, two KC-135 Stratotankers, and an E-3 Sentry were also dispatched to address the situation.

The command made a point of emphasizing that the presence of the Russian aircraft and their subsequent interception by the U.S. military was not in any way connected to the mystery objects recently shot down and underscored the point that the planes did not fly into the sovereign airspace of either the United States or Canada.

Second incident in as many days

NORAD also announced on Tuesday that the military had also intercepted two aircraft described as Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers on Feb. 13, according to ABC News.

Those planes had reportedly been on “a seven-hour flight over neutral waters of the Chukchi Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk,” and even though they did not enter American or Canadian airspace, such aircraft are required to identify themselves before approaching the ADIZ, and when they fail to do so, U.S. military planes are customarily sent to monitor them.

NORAD explained in a statement, “This Russian activity near the North American ADIZ occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat, nor is the activity seen as provocative.”

The agency further noted that the American military intercepts Russian aircraft in this manner roughly six or seven times each year, and the most recent prior instance of such activity took place back in October, according to The Hill.

Tensions remain high

As The Hill pointed out, despite the innocuous – and even routine – nature of U.S. military's interception of Russian aircraft in recent days, tensions between Washington and Moscow remain elevated due to the Kremlin's continued prosecution of the war in Ukraine.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of President Vladimir Putin's commencement of hostilities in Ukraine, the United States government has gone on record and declared that Russia is guilty of crimes against humanity over the course of the conflict and that “justice must be served” to those responsible, as the Associated Press reports.

Addressing attendees at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris asserted that there is a moral imperative among members of the international community to pursue accountability, lest other authoritarian regimes follow suit and take advantage of an absence of enforcement.

Harris' words come a year after the Biden administration made its own assessment that Russian forces were guilty of war crimes in Ukraine and pledged to press for prosecution, but Harris' enhancement of labeling their conduct to constitute crimes against humanity takes the official condemnation even further.

“The most egregious crimes”

Describing the offenses committed by Putin's forces, Harris said, “Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population – gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation,” adding that “execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution” have also occurred.

The vice president continued, “Russian authorities have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people, from Ukraine to Russia, including children. They have cruelly separated children from their families.”

Asserting her knowledge of “the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law,” Harris declared, “[i]n the case of Russia's actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt. These are crimes against humanity.”

Regardless of whether accountability for the aforementioned offenses will ultimately be sought in any formal proceeding or tribunal, fears are growing that civilians in Ukraine may be in for even darker days in the near future, with The Hill reporting that the long-anticipated Russian spring counteroffensive involving tens of thousands of fresh conscripts is beginning to take shape.