24th Sep 2023

Frontex continues operation after Russian jet interception

  • A Russian jet fighter intercepted the Polish Border Guard aircraft - Turbolet L-410 - over the Black Sea (Photo: Straż Graniczna)
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The EU's border agency Frontex says it will continue its operations over the Black Sea after a Russian SU 35 fighter jet intercepted its Polish patrol plane.

Polish authorities have since grounded the propeller plane under a Romanian-led operation coordinated by Frontex.

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"Together with the Romanian authorities, we're assessing our patrolling plans to assure the safety of our crews," said the Warsaw-based agency, in an email on Monday (8 May).

One source told EUobserver that Romania has since reduced the operation's flight zone closer to its shore as a precautionary measure.

The statement follows an incident on Friday where a Polish Turbolet L-41 was intercepted by a twin-engined Russian SU 35 fighter jet.

But whereas Romania says the incident took place some 60 km east from Romania's airspace, the Poles appear less convinced.

Aside from saying the Black Sea, an official Polish press release on the incident makes no mention of the approximate area where the interception took place.

Asked to explain, a Polish border guard spokesperson did not respond. Neither did the Romanian authorities.

Instead both agree that the Turbolet L-410 had temporarily lost control after the Russian jet fighter made three aggressive and dangerous approaches.

At one point, the fighter jet came within five metres, they say. They did not explain why the Turbolet L-410 was targeted.

However, in April, Poland pledged to provide Kiev with 14 MiG-29 fighter jets, as well as help them produce 125mm tank rounds.

Polish government spokesperson Piotr Müller says the jet fighter interception was a planned provocation on the part of Russia.

"We see that Russia aims to focus international attention on these types of provocations," he told Polish media.

The Romanian ministry of national defence made similar comments.

"This incident is further evidence of the provocative approach of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea," it said, in a statement.

The operation, known as Multipurpose Maritime Operations (MMO) Western Black Sea 2023, was launched in 2019 and is set to last until mid-December this year.

Russian air space violations are also relatively common.

Last month, Swedish media reported that Russian warplanes carrying nuclear weapons had violated Swedish airspace in March.

This came at a time when Finland and Sweden were carrying out joint military exercises in the Baltic Sea.

"We reckon it was a deliberate act. Which is very serious, especially as it is a belligerent country," Swedish air force chief Carl-Johan Edström, was quoted as saying.

NGOs appear in over 1,000 Frontex smuggling documents

Frontex officers regularly interrogate asylum seekers to glean information of possible smuggling and trafficking suspects. This is then shared with the EU's police agency, Europol. Frontex says it has over 1,000 documents linked to those interrogations where NGOs appear.

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