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‘Russian bombers’ intrusion foiled before Obama visit’

world Updated: Feb 28, 2009 23:34 IST

IANS
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In an incident reminiscent of the Cold War, Canada revealed Friday that two Russian bombers were intercepted trying to enter its airspace just hours before President Barack Obama's visit here Feb 19. Moscow has denied the incident, saying Canada's contention was “nothing but farce”.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the Russian bombers were spotted near Canadian airspace over the Arctic region Feb 18.

Canadian and US fighters chased them, forcing them to “turn tail,” he said in Ottawa.

Calling the timing of the incident suspect, he said: “Within 24 hours of the president's visit to Canada last week we did scramble two F-18 fighter planes.”

As has happened in the past, the defence minister said, Canada was not given any prior notice about the bomber’s flight.

“They simply show up on a radar screen. This is not a game at all. These aircraft approaching Canadian airspace are viewed very seriously,”' he said.

Reacting sharply to the minister's statement, Moscow denied that any of its bombers approached Canadian airspace.

Calling the minister's statement "nothing but a farce,'' a Russian defence ministry spokesman in Moscow said: "During the flight, Russian bombers strictly followed international flight regulations and excluded the very possibility of violating Canadian air space. Border countries have been notified about the flights.''

He said the only recent flight under taken by any Russian bomber (Tu-160) happened last Wednesday.