The Russian Embassy in London has requested the UK Foreign Office’s clarifications on media reports of the alleged British leadership’s decision to enable UK pilots participating in anti-ISIL coalition’s airstrikes to shoot down Russian planes over Iraq.
Earlier, a UK defense source told the Daily Star Sunday tabloid that British and NATO pilots reportedly had been given a clearance to shoot down Russian jets over Iraq.
UK defense sources stressed that RAF pilots have been told to avoid contact with Russian jets “at all costs,” but warned the pilots must be prepared to attack Russian jets “if their lives depend on it.”
“We are concerned by media reports as far as they refer to senior members of the Cabinet. We urgently requested UK Foreign Office’s clarifications. At the same time, the hypothesis itself of a potential conflict between British and Russian aircraft in the skies over Iraq is incomprehensible. As it is known, the Russian jets are not involved in attacks on ISIL targets on its [Iraqi] territory”, Russian Ambassador in the UK Alexander Yakovenko told RIA Novosti.
Russia launched precision airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria last week at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had not received any requests from Baghdad to carry out airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.
The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Tornado combat aircraft are said to be equipped with up to four Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) to shoot down a Russian jet they encounter. The 2,300-miles-per-hour missiles with warheads filled with 22 pounds of high explosive lock onto targets using an infrared heat-seeker.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said earlier he was seeking to extend RAF’s anti-ISIL efforts in Iraq to Syria.
A US-led coalition of 60 nations has been conducting anti-ISIL airstrikes in Iraq and Syria for over a year, bypassing the UN Security Council’s and Assad’s approval.
Yakovenko also said that British aircraft were not involved in the coalition strikes against ISIL in Syria.
“As for the joint struggle against the Islamic State, we have not received an official response to our request concerning information the British side has on ISIL’s infrastructure targets, which could be used by the Russian Air Force,” the ambassador added.