RAF planes have intercepted a pair of Russian nuclear bombers as the UK deploys troops on Russia’s doorstep.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops have set up camp near the border with Ukraine as tensions grow amid fears the Kremlin is plotting an invasion.
The Dutch Air Force said its planes along with those from the RAF, as well as the Belgian and Norwegian air forces, intercepted two Tu-160 bombers.
An RAF spokesman said Typhoon fighters based at the Lossiemouth and Coningsby bases “were scrambled today against unidentified aircraft approaching the UK area of interest”.
They intercepted and escorted two Russian Tu-160 long range strategic bomber aircraft.
“Subsequently, our fighters escorted the Russian aircraft out of the UK’s area of interest,” said the spokesman.
“At no time did the Russian bombers enter UK sovereign airspace.”
Meanwhile British troops have been sent to Poland’s border with Belarus – as Russian deploys soldiers to the country.
Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said British Royal Engineers have started a “reconnaissance” mission with their Polish peers the tense frontier.
“Our soldiers will co-operate in strengthening the fence of the Polish-Belarusian border,” said Mr Blaszczak.
The Belarusian military said the exercise involving a battalion of Russian paratroopers was intended to test the readiness of the allies’ rapid response forces due to an “increase of military activities near the Belarusian border”.
Russia also flew Tu-160 bombers over Belarus amid the bitter border dispute.
It comes the United States warned Russia may be plotting to invade Ukraine.
They told their transatlantic counterparts that this also includes elite units, while some have been deployed covertly at night.
The rumoured military operations come amid tensions over migrants and energy supplies.
Whitehall sources said the government was concerned at the intel and there was “twitchiness” and “anxiety” among officials.
The US intelligence is believed to be based upon details that have not yet been disclosed with Europe, multiple sources told Bloomberg.
The potential invasion could eerily echo the events of 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Just last month, Russia staged massive “invasion” drills in Crimea with more than 40 warships and 30 jets in a terrifying show of strength.
US officials have now urged Moscow to reconsider making a “serious mistake”, spurred by concerns from President Joe Biden.
But the Kremlin insisted it was not an aggressor and instead accused the US of goading Europe with its warnings.
Vladimir Putin has already come under fire after being accused of creating a migrant crisis in the Poland-Belarus border to destabilise Europe.
His country deployed two nuclear bombers to patrol the skies over Belarus amid the bitter border dispute.
Russia also claimed to have chased off a British spy plane on Thursday over the Black Sea region.
The RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft “tried to approach the state border of the Russian Federation in southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula,” said Russia’s defence ministry.
They said they had scrambled a Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jet to intercept the Brit plane, which reportedly changed course after being approached.
Russian officials said the troops had only been deployed for maneuvers and in response to the increased NATO activity near borders.
The Kremlin previously warned the West was “playing with fire” by deploying warships in the Black Sea and warned of the “risks of a clash”.
They complained that two US warships and four NATO spy planes had been sent close to Crimea in just 24 hours.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured Ukraine that the US commitment to ensuring their security is “ironclad”.
Directly referring to the build up of Russian forces, he warned any “escalatory or aggressive actions would be of grave concern to the United States.”
The West insists that under international law Crimea belongs to Ukraine.
Earlier this year, fighting over the territory triggered a major diplomatic incident as Putin sent tens of thousands of troops and weaponry to the border.