Russian spy plane sighting prompts flights review call

Spy plane Image copyright Steve Bradley
Image caption The Russian Antonov An-30 was spotted flying over Lancashire during the weekend

An agreement allowing Russian military planes to fly over the UK should be reviewed amid tension between the countries, an MP has said.

Nigel Evans said there were "questions" to answer after a Russian Antonov An-30 spy plane was photographed over Lancashire last weekend.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the "routine" flight took place under an agreement.

It said the Royal Air Force had flown over Russia at the same time.

An (MOD) statement said the Open Skies agreement came into force in January 2002 and had 34 state signatories, which could fly "unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants".

It said the deal was aimed at "building confidence and familiarity".

The Russian military is allowed to fly over UK territory twice a year, provided it gives at least 72 hours' notice.

'Sensitive factories'

The MoD said RAF personnel were onboard the Antonov An-30 after it was deployed to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and the UK had "full access" to the images taken during the flight.

It added the UK would lead four Open Skies missions to Russia this year, including two with Norway and the US.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption The plane had RAF personnel onboard, the MoD said

Tensions between Nato and Russia have risen over Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

Mr Evans, Conservative MP for Ribble Valley in Lancashire, said: "I think now is the time we look again at the treaty that was signed up.

"We do have some sensitive factories in Lancashire that are helping to manufacture military aircraft.

"Why are [the Russians] coming over our airspace within just a few miles of BAE Systems in Samlesbury in my constituency?"

In April, two Russian aircraft were intercepted by RAF Typhoons near UK airspace in the latest of several similar incidents over the past year.

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