from the Times Online
RAF scrambles to intercept Russian bombers
RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian strategic bombers heading for British airspace yesterday, as the spirit of the Cold War returned to the North Atlantic once again.
The incident, described as rare by the RAF, served as a telling metaphor for the stand-off between London and Moscow over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
While the Kremlin hesitated before responding to Britain’s expulsion of four diplomats, the Russian military engaged in some old-fashioned sabre-rattling.
Two Tu95 “Bear” bombers were dispatched from their base on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic Circle and headed towards British airspace.
Britain and Russia are heading for a serious breakdown in relations over the man wanted for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko
Russian military aircraft based near the northern port city of Murmansk fly patrols off the Norwegian coast regularly, but the RAF said that it was highly unusual for them to stray as far south as Scotland.
Two Tornado fighters, part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert, took off from RAF Leeming, in Yorkshire, to confront the Russian aircraft, after they were shadowed by two F16s from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, The Times has learnt.
“The Russians turned back before they reached British airspace,” an RAF spokesman said.
There was no evidence to suggest that the incident was connected with the diplomatic row over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoy, the main suspect in the murder of Litvinenko.