POLITICS

U.S. Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Aircraft

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor roars through the sky during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne on March 1, 2013. 1
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor roars through the sky during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne on March 1, 2013. 180,000 patrons are expected through the gates over the duration of the event staged at the Avalon Airfield some 80kms south-west of Melbourne. AFP PHOTO / Paul CROCK (Photo credit should read PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - U.S. and Canadian fighter jets intercepted Russian aircraft that were flying near U.S. and Canadian air space this week, a military spokesman said on Friday.

The United States and Russia are increasingly at odds over Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting for control of parts of the former Soviet state.

On Wednesday, six Russian aircraft entered the United States' air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area beyond sovereign U.S. airspace, according to a statement from NORAD, a U.S. and Canadian aerospace command, and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

In response, "two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets acting under the authority of NORAD identified and intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ, west of Alaska," the statement said.

On Thursday, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Canadian ADIZ.

The Russian bombers did not enter the United States' or Canada's sovereign airspace.

John Cornelio, a spokesman for NORAD and NORTHCOM, said that such intercepts had happened over 50 times in the last five years as Russian aircraft conducted exercises.

"We do not see these flights as a threat," he said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko secured over $50 million in U.S. assistance during a visit to Washington this week but did not clinch U.S. weapons his soldiers might use to fight the separatists. Poroshenko also visited Canada this week and received aid in the form of a C$200 million ($182 million)five-year loan. (Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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