Russian minister Sergei Shoigu was travelling over the Baltic sea on Tuesday when a NATO F-18 jet attempted to approach the plane. The close proximity of the two aircraft’s prompted one of two Russian SU-27 fighter jets accompanying Mr Shoigu to see it off. NATO have said their jets approached the Russian aircraft in order to identify it.

The Russian minister had been returning to Moscow from the Russian Baltic region of Kaliningrad, which is surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, and was carrying a TASS reporter on board, who subsequently reported the events.

The jet that approached the plane was reportedly a Spanish F-18 jet based in Lithuania.

A video of the incident shown on Russian state media showed a Russian jet sharply banking to the left in the direction of the NATO plane, forcing it to veer leftwards itself.

In response to the incident, a NATO official said: “A Russian aircraft, escorted by at least one Russian fighter jet, was tracked over the Baltic Sea earlier today.

“Jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission scrambled to identify the aircraft which flew close to Allied airspace.

“Once identification of the aircraft had taken place, the NATO jets returned to base.

“NATO has no information as to who was on board.”

Western military commanders have been on high alert in recent weeks, following Moscow’s vast military exercises in Eastern Europe.

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Prior to that, a Russian Antonov AN-26 “Curl” transport aircraft was intercepted.

A Typhoon pilot said: “We were scrambled to intercept a Russian AN-26 aircraft routing west close to Estonian airspace.

“Once complete with this task, a second task was initiated to intercept a group of contacts operating to the south close to Lithuanian airspace.

“These aircraft transiting the Baltic region were not on a recognised flight plan or communicating with Air Traffic Control.”

As well as carrying out air exercises, Russian forcers are reportedly carrying out a vast naval drill in the Baltic Sea.

Moscow blocked off five vast zones of the waters to carry out exercises involving over 4,000 personnel and 20 deadly warships.

The ships will practice anti-submarine warfare as well as firing at air and sea targets.

Russian strategists view the Black and Baltic Seas as key strategic footholds in Europe.

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