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Russian Su-35 Fighter Jets Taunt American and French Aircraft In Skies Over Syria

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Russian fighter jets continued to taunt American and French aircraft over Syria on Thursday, buzzing Western aircraft and prompting French planes to change course, western military officials said.

The incidents involved Russian Su-35 “Flanker” planes harassing a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned craft and two French Rafale fighters, the officials said.

Two Rafale jets that were flying along the Iraq-Syria border were confronted with “a non-professional interaction on the part of an SU-35,” France’s Minister des Armees wrote on Twitter. “The pilots maneuvered in order to control the risk of accident before continuing their patrol.”

The Pentagon separately reported that Russian warplanes flew dangerously close to MQ-9 Reaper drones in Syria.

“Russian aircraft dropped flares in front of the drones and flew dangerously close, endangering the safety of all aircraft involved,” according to a statement from the U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

“These events represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces operating in Syria, which threaten the safety of both Coalition and Russian forces,” the statement said. “We urge Russian forces in Syria to cease this reckless behavior and adhere to the standards of behavior expected of a professional air force so we can resume our focus on the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

READ MORE about U.S. forces in Syria

Moscow dismissed both claims, with a commander saying American UAVs have breached deconfliction protocols in Syria, and that MQ-9 drones can automatically activate the onboard defenses of Russian aircraft.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, claimed that the charges are “beyond the bounds of decency,” and are ” on highly professional actions of the Russian military personnel in Syria are “devoid of common sense.”

Asked during a Thursday press briefing whether the drones could have flown into a restricted area,  Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder told reporters it would be “ridiculous” to suggest “that somehow this is our fault.”

photo released by the Air Force showed Russian Su-34 and Su-35 fighter plane aircraft employ flares in the flight path of a U.S. MQ-9 drone flying over Syria on Thursday morning.

The Pentagon released the video, below, of the MQ-9’s encounter with Russian aircraft.

The Kremlin did not immediately return a request for comment from Soldier of Fortune.

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