US pilots called in a close call over the Black Sea on Monday, reporting that a Russian fighter jet zipped by in perilous proximity to their Navy surveillance plane. Per US defense officials who spoke to CNN, the Russian Su-27 performed an "unsafe intercept" that lasted about two hours and 40 minutes, and it got as close as 5 feet to the American Lockheed EP-3, cutting across its flight path and "flagrantly violating" international airspace laws. In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this wasn't the first time Russia has flouted such international agreements, and she called on it to "cease these unsafe actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, danger to aircrew on both sides, and midair collisions."
"The US aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity," a Pentagon spokeswoman says. The jet fighter's actions were "inexcusable, provocative, and potentially fatal," adds CNN analyst John Kirby. Russia's Defense Ministry pushed back on that assessment, saying in a statement its jet had been sent to check out "an unidentified air target approaching the Russian airspace borders," had come within a "safe distance" of the American aircraft, and was "strictly in accordance with international airspace rules," per ABC News. (Read more Russia stories.)