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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 14:13 GMT
Japan angry at Russian 'intrusion'
Sukhoi Su-27
The Russian planes included two Sukhoi Su-27s, known as Flankers
Japan has protested to Russia over an alleged intrustion by Russian warplanes into Japanese airspace twice on Wednesday, officials in Tokyo said.

We once again analysed all the actions of our pilots. There was no invasion of Japanese airspace

Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev
A spokesman for Japan's Defence Agency said the four Russian planes were spotted at 1159 (0259 GMT) near Rebun island off its northernmost island of Hokkaido.

A second incident occurred in the same area a few hours later, when two military jets were spotted at 1436 (0536 GMT).

Spokesman Koichiro Oshima said in both incidents, Japanese fighter jets took off from bases in the regions and issued warnings on their radar, but no encounter occurred.

The event comes just hours after Russian and Japanese leaders agreed to hold a peace summit.

Ties between the two countries have been strained for years over a territorial dispute involving four islands.

Russian denial

In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Embassy official Leonid Shevchuk and issued a strong protest against the incidents.

There are exercises going on and we are watching everything

Russian air force spokesman
Russia's defence ministry has said its planes were training near Japan in "strategic military exercises", but has flatly denied they had violated Japanese airspace.

"We once again analysed all the actions of our pilots. There was no invasion of Japanese airspace," Interfax quoted Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev as saying.

Russian jets
Russia says the jets just brushed past Japan's coast
The ministry said four Tu-22 bombers, known as "Backfire" in the West, and two accompanying Sukhoi Su-27s, also known as "Flanker", had just brushed by the nation's coast.

Asked how the air force could be sure there had been no intrusion, an air force spokesman said: "There are exercises going on and we are watching everything."

The Russian air force is reported to have become increasingly confident under President Vladimir Putin and has been more active of late than for several years.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
WWII row overshadows Japan-Russia talks
05 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kuril islands dispute deadlocked
30 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan gives priority to Russia
21 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Russian navy fires on Japanese boat
23 Aug 00 | Europe
Reforming Russia's military
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