US nuclear B-52 bombers were flanked by NATO fighters in spearhead formation during a massive show of strength to Vladimir Putin.
The warning to the tyrant comes as his jets intercepted a pair of the bombers over the Baltic – the first encounter between the sides since Russia brought down a US drone.
In video which appears to have been taken from one of the B-52s and released by NATO, fighter jets from Italy, Spain and Romania can be seen in a spearhead formation.
"Get a cockpit view of the US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers working with NATO Allies during a recent mission over Europe," said the alliance.
"The B-52s are training with Allied Air Forces during their BTF (Bomber Task Force) mission strengthening our Euro-Atlantic partnership."
On display are Italian Typhoons, Spanish F-18s and Romanian F-16s.
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It comes as Russia’s defence ministry said its radar detected two targets which were identified as US Air Force B-52H bombers, the state-owned TASS news agency reported.
Footage taken from the Su-35 shows it flying beside one of two massive B-52s while Russian Tu-95 Bear nuclear bombers were seen taking off in a tit-for-tat show of strength.
Before the B-52s were intercepted by Vladimir Putin's planes, a photo shows them being escorted by Polish F-16 jets over the Baltic Sea.
The ministry said a Su-35 fighter jet took to the air in order to prevent a border violation.
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After that “the foreign military aircraft moved away from the Russian Federation state border, the Russian fighter returned to its base airfield".
The Su-35's flight was strictly in line with international rules of the use of airspace during Monday's incident, added the ministry.
"No violation of the state border of the Russian Federation was permitted," it said.
At the same time, Putin ordered up two of his own Tu-95MS – the world’s only propeller-powered strategic bombers – with Su-30SM and Su-35S warplanes providing fighter support in eastern Russia.
The move saw Putin flexing his nuclear muscles as it was announced that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is making a surprise trip today to Ukraine.
"Two Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers of long-range aviation performed a scheduled flight in the airspace over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan,” said the Russian defence ministry.
“The flight lasted over seven hours.”
The United States has a number of military bases on Japan, including ones just across the Sea of Japan from Russia.
The Russians didn't reveal where the Su-35s flew from but some are known to be based in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic.
Flight tracking website Flightradar24 shows the one plane taking off from a base in Spain, flying over Sweden and then into international airspace, where it was intercepted.
The plane continued to Estonian airspace before flying back over the Baltic Sea.
The site explained that one plane showed up as it had its location transponder turned on, while the other most likely had it off in order to avoid setting off collision alerts.
During last week’s clash a Russian Su-27 jet struck the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone – forcing it to crash into the sea.
The drone was taken down while flying near Russian-occupied Crimea and the Ukraine frontline on Tuesday.
What is the B-52 bomber?
The B-52 Stratofortress is a US Air Force’s heavy bomber which has been in use since the mid-1950s.
One of the reasons why the plane – which has a 150ft wingspan – is still in use is its staggering flying range of 9,000 miles.
And then there's the awe inspiring payload capability.
In fact its enormous size means they can carry more than 30 tonnes of bombs.
The hulking bomber can also be fitted with large numbers of nuclear-able cruise missiles and precision air-to-surface rockets.
B-52s were synonymous with the bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s during the Cold War.
Its destructive capability was also demonstrated in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars where they were used to demolish caves and underground facilities.
The majority of the 76-strong fleet are based at Barksdale in Louisiana and Minot in North Dakota.
The planes also fly missions from bases outside the US, including the UK and Spain.
Prior to the collision, which happened at 7am local time, two Su-27s had "dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9" in a "reckless" and "unprofessional" manner, the US military said.
Footage of the moment has now been released by the US European Command.
It shows one of the Russian fighter jets zooming towards the drone before flying above it – dumping fuel on it.
Horrified US military personnel in Germany watched a live feed from the drone as the Russian jets repeatedly flew around it, dumping fuel to damage cameras and sensors.
Senior US officials have been worried for months that some sort of incident over the Black Sea could lead to miscommunication and confrontation.
The Russians said the drone manoeuvred sharply and crashed into water after its fighter jets were scrambled to intercept it near Crimea.
Moscow denied its warplanes came into contact with the drone and insisted they didn't fire their weapons to shoot down the drone, which would have been an act of war.
The area has seen intense NATO military activity and is close to the frontlines of the Ukraine war.
The Russians reportedly said they won the race to retrieve the drone from the 3,000ft under the Black Sea.
The bringing down of the drone is part of Russia's increasingly dangerous pattern of behaviour that experts fear could spark a wider conflict.
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US researchers at the RAND Corporation have compiled a report detailing hundreds of such incidents in recent years which they describe as "coercive signalling".
This is designed to send a message to the US and other NATO planes and ships through “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct – with Russian aircrafts increasingly armed.
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