Air Force's Commander Seethes Over NATO Jets

Air Force commander Alexander Zelin warned on Saturday that NATO fighters escorting Russian bombers on patrol flights over neutral waters are violating safety rules.

Zelin said NATO aircraft approach Russian bombers too closely and too often, creating risky situations.

"They approach our strategic bombers at unacceptable distances and at unacceptable intervals, conduct various maneuvers around them and violate flight-safety rules in every way," Zelin told reporters, Interfax reported.

No one answered the phone at the Air Force's press service Saturday.

Zelin complained that NATO F-15, F-16 and F-22 fighter jets regularly "attack" Russian bombers over the Arctic Ocean.

"It is not a misuse of the word 'attack' because our partners are training for combat actions, reaching the point of an attack," Zelin said. "I must confess that this is quite unpleasant and even dangerous. Naturally, we rehearse our counteractions."

There was no immediate comment from NATO.

Russia itself has been the subject of similar disputes. In February, Russian bombers flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific, prompting the U.S. to scramble fighters to escort the Russian aircraft.

In September last year, Russian jets were accused of violating Finnish airspace. Russia said the jets were flying over neutral territory.

An increasingly assertive Moscow is seeking to showcase its military might and its clout in the international arena. During Friday's Victory Day parade, tanks and missile launchers rolled through Red Square for the first time since the Soviet era.