US says Venezuela jet aggressively shadowed Navy aircraft

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 21.07.2019 19:56

The U.S. military on Sunday accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of "aggressively" shadowing a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II plane over international airspace, in yet another sign of the increasing hostility between the two nations.

The encounter between the U.S. and Venezuelan planes occurred on Friday, the same day that the Trump administration announced it was sanctioning four top officials in Venezuela's military counterintelligence agency.

In a statement issued Sunday, the U.S. military said that it had determined the "Russian-made fighter aggressively shadowed the EP-3 at an unsafe distance in international airspace for a prolonged period of time, endangering the safety of the crew and jeopardizing the EP-3 mission."

U.S. authorities say their intelligence plane was performing a multi-nationally approved mission.

The two planes did not collide and no one was hurt in the incident.

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez says the U.S. plane entered Venezuelan airspace without prior notification.

He says it also endangered commercial flights from Venezuela's main airport.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has repeatedly used sanctions in an effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 re-election Washington deemed illegitimate.

Maduro has retained the backing of the country's military and other institutions, plus countries including Turkey, Russia and China.

"The Maduro regime continues to undermine internationally recognized laws and demonstrate its contempt for international agreements authorizing the U.S. and other nations to safely conduct flights in international airspace," the U.S. military said in a statement.

The statement also took a swing at Russia, saying the close encounter in the air "demonstrates Russia's irresponsible military support to the illegitimate Maduro regime."

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