Russia calls French ambassador over near-miss with jet, Swiss later blamed for plane incident

© Maksim Blinov
Initially thought to be French, the military jet that came dangerously close to a Russian aircraft carrying State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin turned out to be Swiss. Moscow has since apologized for summoning the French Ambassador.

Ambassador to Russia Jean-Maurice Ripert was asked to explain why a French Air Force jet allegedly approached Russian passenger plane bound for Switzerland, which was carrying a parliamentary delegation headed by Naryshkin, the diplomatic mission reported.

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“Deep concern has been voiced over the incident,” the Russian ministry said, “This could undermine trust with Paris and prevent it from hosting major political events.”

Naryshkin and the Russian parliamentary delegation were on their way to Geneva where the 133rd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is currently taking place.

The French Defense Ministry denies breaking any aviation rules, claiming that no French aircraft were involved in the incident. The French Foreign Ministry alleges the jet that came dangerously close to the Russian plane was in fact Swiss.

Suspicion fell on France’s Air Force as Geneva’s airport is located not far from Switzerland’s border with France.

"It's a Swiss aircraft," a French foreign ministry official said, as cited by Reuters.

There is still no information regarding the alleged incident, but an investigation is in progress, a Geneva airport representative, Bernard Stampfli said.

State Duma speaker Naryshkin confirmed that he was aware of the incident. He did not see the jet himself, but the delegation noticed it as the plane came in to land in Geneva, he said at the Assembly.

The Swiss military jet was performing a standard procedure. There was not “a dangerous proximity” between the two aircrafts, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said, as cited by RIA Novosti.

The matter is to be settled soon, though the situation is quite serious, Naryshkin said, according to RIA Novosti.

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Russia’s Foreign Ministry is waiting for a response from both France and Switzerland.

Initial information on the foreign plane’s approach was acquired from the pilot, who suggested that the jet belonged to the French Air Force, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

Calling an ambassador to the Foreign Ministry is a standard procedure in incidents involving high-profile officials, she added. The French ambassador took his time to clarify the circumstances.

“There is no way we can avoid misunderstandings in this situation,” Zakharova said in an interview to Rossija 24 TV channel, explaining that the Western media tends to make references to anonymous or unreliable sources.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry is doing its best to get to the bottom of the current situation, she concluded.

Paris is attempting to explain the circumstances related to the incident to Moscow and expresses regret for the fact that the French ambassador had been summoned to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

“No French army aircraft was involved in the incident with the official Russian aircraft that the Russian Foreign Ministry mentioned,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, Reuters reports. “We regret therefore that the French ambassador to Moscow was summoned.”

“The necessary clarifications are being made with the Russian authorities.”

Moscow has apologized to the French Foreign Ministry and is still waiting for a response from Bern.