Donald Trump has flown three B52 bombers into Ukrainian airspace as a warning to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The B-52H stratofortress bombers swooped along the border of the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula in a clear show of strength before flying close to areas under the control of Kremlin-backed separatists.
The bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, took off from RAF Fairfold in Gloucestershire, UK.
It comes amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow over the poisoning of Putin’s main rival Alexei Navalny and Russia’s interference in unrest in Belarus.
A week ago a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performed a potentially dangerous manoeuvre in front of another B-52H flying over the Black Sea.
Three B-52H bombers flew into Ukrainian airspace in a show of strength against Putin
The elite warplanes, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, swooped by the border of Russian-occupied Crimea before flying near to areas occupied by Kremlin-backed separatists
Flight path maps show the elite warplanes entering Ukrainian airspace and flying towards Crimea, where they circled in a racetrack-like formation.
The planes then moved towards Russian separatist-controlled areas and headed, at their furthest point, to the city of Melitopol, which is around 100 miles from separatist regions.
It is thought that several Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers joined the bombers when they entered the country’s airspace.
At least one British Eurofighter Typhoon flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, to join the formation.
Several spy planes also operated in the region, according to website The Drive, including American Rivet Joint and RAF Airseeker.
It is thought they were accompanied by Ukrainian Su-27 warplanes (pictured) and an RAF plane from Akrotiri, Cyprus
Two of the three planes, with the call signs Julia, are pictured on the above images
Observer Petri Makela said: ‘This is the most intensive (spy plane activity) I’ve seen in a while.
‘At least two USAF RC-135V/W Rivet Joint SIGINT planes recording the Russian emissions (radar, comms etc.) from Crimea and Russia as a flight of B-52H bombers circle along the Azov coast in Ukrainian airspace.’
A build-up of Russian forces on the Crimean peninsula has recently been spotted, which may have sparked the sortie.
S-400 and S-300 surface-to-air missile systems have been deployed to nine different sites in the region.
The German government said on Wednesday it had ‘unequivocal proof’ that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.
They said tests carried out in a military laboratory had found evidence of the Soviet-era chemical that was also used on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.
It comes after the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. He remains in a coma at a hospital in Berlin, Germany
And amid warnings to Russia not to interfere in Belarus as thousands protest against its government. Pictured is the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko (centre) with Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin (left)
Navalny, 44, remains in a coma in a Berlin hospital nearly two weeks after collapsing on a plane in Siberia, which made an emergency landing when he fell ill.
Russia has also been warned against interfering in Belarus where protesters have lined the street decrying the results of the August 9 election and calling on president Alexander Lukashenko to stand down.
On Thursday Lukashenko claimed Navalny had not been poisoned, saying the Europeans made it up ‘in order to discourage Putin from sticking his nose into Belarus’s affairs’.
Lukashenko and Putin are set to meet in Moscow in the coming weeks.
The B-52 Stratofortress: America’s long-range strategic bomber
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber drops bombs in this undated file photo
The United States Air Force currently has 76 B-52 Stratofortress bombers in service today.
Designed and built by the Seattle-based Boeing Company, the B-52 is a long-range strategic bomber that has been used by the Air Force since the 1950s.
It is capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds of weapons while flying at a combat range of more than 8,800 miles without aerial refueling.
This heavy bomber is powered by 8 turbofan engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney.
Each engine is capable of producing 17,000 pounds of thrust to propel the plane forward in the air.
The B-52 also boasts a wingspan of 185ft. Each aircraft has a length measuring 159ft4in.
The plane stands at a height of 40ft8in.
The aircraft weighs approximately 185,000 pounds. It can take off at a maximum weight of 488,000 pounds.
To fly its long-range bombing missions, it needs fuel – a lot of it.
Each B-52 has a fuel capacity of 312,197 pounds.
The plane is a subsonic aircraft that can reach speeds of 650mph.
It can also fly at a top altitude of 50,000ft.
Source: Boeing Company