13:45 Jul. 27, 2016
Russia's Defence Ministry rejects accusations
Bulgaria insists that Russian aircraft violated international rules while flying over the Black Sea, but admits that there was no violation of Bulgarian airspace.
The Bulgarian Defence Ministry said Russian aircraft turned off their transponders — communication devices that allow an airplane to be located — and flew without previously announced flight schedules.
A spokesman for Russia's Defence Ministry denied any such violations. He said Russian aircraft followed international rules and always kept their transponders on.
The exchange of accusations started on Sunday, when Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said in an interview with private Nova TV that there had been a rise in violations of Bulgarian airspace by Russian military and commercial aircraft.
Nenchev said Russian military aircraft had violated "Bulgaria's area of responsibility" in NATO airspace four times in the past month.
He demanded an explanation from Moscow and added Bulgaria had to take preventive measures, namely scramble its fighter jets.
Bulgaria, a nation of 7.2 million and once the staunch Moscow ally, joined NATO in 2004.
The country has expressed readiness to take part in a multinational NATO land brigade based in Romania. However, it would not join a proposed NATO fleet meant to counter Russian forces in the Black Sea.
Last month Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said he did not want to see warships sailing past the tourist resorts.
Based on reporting by AP