Southern Command: Venezuelan Fighter Jet Made ‘Unsafe’ Approach to U.S. Aircraft

A Venezuelan fighter jet recently approached a U.S. aircraft in international airspace at an “unsafe distance,” thus “endangering the safety of the crew and jeopardizing” the aircraft’s mission, U.S. Southern Command revealed on Sunday.

The skirmish, which took place on Friday, reportedly involved a Russian-made SU-30 Flanker Venezuelan fighter aircraft and a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II aircraft carrying out a routine “detection and monitoring” mission.

“After reviewing video documentation, we have 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,” the Southern Command said in a statement.

“The U.S. routinely conducts regionally-supported, multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” they continued. “The EP-3 aircraft was adhering to international standards and rules.”

The statement also argued that the incident was evidence of the Maduro regime’s willingness 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.”

“Despite the Venezuelan people’s suffering, his nation’s vital infrastructure crumbling, and children starving, Maduro chooses to use his country’s precious resources to engage in unprovoked and unjustified acts,” it read.

Southern Command also blamed Russia over its continued military support for the socialist regime, which has been a crucial factor behind Maduro remaining in power.

“This latest action also demonstrates Russia’s irresponsible military support to the illegitimate Maduro regime and adds to Maduro’s growing legacy of reckless and negligent behavior, which undermines international rule of law and efforts to counter illicit trafficking,” the statement concluded.

Over the past year, Moscow has sent an array of troops and equipment to help bolster the Venezuelan military, although they recently withdrew a host of defense advisors from Caracas over lack of payment.

The Venezuelan military responded to the claims on Sunday, accusing the U.S. of violating “security of air operations and international treaties.”

According to CNN, they claimed to have “proceeded to intercept the aircraft through two airplanes of the Bolivarian Air Force with the intention of applying the international protocols established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). As the US aircraft did not comply with such protocols, it was forced to vacate (the Venezuelan airspace).”

The incident marks the latest escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, with the White House actively working to remove Maduro from power and instigate a transition to democracy in the crisis-stricken country.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out a military intervention to remove Maduro from power, insisting that all “options are on the table.” However, Washington’s current policy has focused on imposing sanctions on leading socialist officials and state-run companies, as well as providing full backing to President Juan Guaidó as he attempts to wrench power away from the socialist regime.

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