The Russian-made Venezuelan jet took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas on Friday, according to information released by Southcom. It approached the US Navy EP-3 Aries II over the Caribbean Sea.
“Venezuela SU-30 Flanker ‘aggressively shadowed’ a US EP-3 aircraft at an unsafe distance July 19, jeopardising the crew and aircraft,” Southcom said in tweets on Sunday. “The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognised and approved mission in international airspace over Caribbean Sea.”
“This action demonstrates Russia’s irresponsible military support to Maduro's illegitimate regime and underscores Maduro’s recklessness and irresponsible behaviour,” the tweets continued, “which undermines international rule of law and efforts to counter illicit trafficking.”
“The U.S. routinely conducts multi-nationally recognised and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” the statement said.
The Southern Command’s tweets refer to Russia’s backing of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s amid US-imposed sanctions, as the US and other countries support Juan Guaidó, the country’s opposition leader.
In response to the US announcement, Vladimir Padrino, the Defence Minister of Venezuela, said the encounter occurred after an EP-3 with radio-electronic reconnaissance capabilities and anti-submarine warfare capabilities was "intercepted" within Venezuela's Exclusive Economic Zone, according to Reuters. He added that there have been dozens of similar “incursions."