Russian fighter jets chased away a NATO F-18 fighter jet from an airplane carrying the Russian Defense minister Tuesday above neutral waters in the Baltic sea, TASS news agency reported.

Defense minister Sergei Shoigu was returning from the Baltic region of Kaliningrad to Moscow when it was approached by the NATO's F-18. The plane was also carrying a TASS reporter on board, the news agency said.

The NATO warplane was chased off by two Russian Sukhoi-27 fighters that were escorting the minister’s plane. Shoigu had gone to Kaliningrad to attend a ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of a new military academy, according to Reuters.

The Spanish F-18 jets based in Lithuania had approached the Russian plane to identify it, a NATO official told TASS.

“Jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission scrambled to identify the aircraft, which flew close to Allied airspace. Once identification of the aircraft had taken place, the NATO jets returned to base,” the official said.

Russian state media showed videos of the incident where a Russian fighter jet banked hard to the left in the direction of NATO plane, causing it to move away.

Under NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, Spanish F-18 jets have been based in Lithuania since May this year.

F-18 Fighter Jets NATO scrambled F-18 fighter jets twice in two days to intercept Russian surveillance planes. Photo: Reuters

This is not the first time NATO jets and Shoigu’s airplane have been involved in such an incident, with a Polish F-16 approaching the Russian defense minister’s plane back in 2017 over the Baltic sea, before it was forced away by Russian jets. NATO gave a similar reason back then, stating that Shoigu’s aircraft failed it identify itself.

Encounters between Russian and NATO fighter jets have increased in the recent years following Russia’s annexure of Crimea in 2014. Growing tensions have led to both sides increasing the military patrols.