Russian embassy in Seoul on Wednesday denied that Moscow had formally apologised to South Korea over an alleged airspace violation during a joint air patrol with China the previous day, the Interfax news agency reported.
South Korea on Tuesday accused a Russian military aircraft of entering its airspace over a disputed island during a long-range joint air patrol by Russian and Chinese aircraft.
Seoul said earlier on Wednesday that an unidentified Russian military attaché working in the South Korean capital had expressed deep regret and blamed an equipment malfunction for the incident.
But Russian diplomats in Seoul denied that version of events.
“The Russian side did not make an official apology,” the embassy in Seoul said, adding it had noted many inaccuracies in the comments by South Korea, Interfax reported.
South Korea said Russia blamed an equipment malfunction for what it initially said was an intrusion by a military aircraft into South Korean airspace the previous day, though Moscow later disputed that any violation occurred.
South Korean warplanes fired flares and hundreds of warning shots near the Russian aircraft, and the incident triggered a round of diplomatic protests by countries in the region.
“Russia has conveyed its deep regret over the incident and said its defence ministry would immediately launch an investigation and take all necessary steps,” said Yoon Do-han, a press secretary at South Korea’s presidential office.
“The officer said such a situation would have never occurred if it followed the initially planned route.”
Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia’s public statements on the issue have not mentioned any technical problems, nor announced any investigation or acknowledged a violation of South Korean air space.
South Korea’s defence ministry said that after initially admitting a possible mistake and expressing regret on Tuesday, Russian officials on Wednesday sent South Korea an official document stating that its aircraft did not violate any air space.
Russia also accused South Korean pilots of threatening the safety of Russian aircraft.
An official at South Korea’s defence ministry on Wednesday said the intrusion could not have resulted from a system error.
He did not elaborate, but said the two countries would hold working-level talks to discuss a Russian request to share information on the incident.
The incident came at a delicate time for a region that has for years been overshadowed by hostility between the U.S. and North Korea, and has recently seen a flare-up in tension between South Korea and Japan.
China’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that China and Russia did not enter territorial sky of any other country during their joint patrols on Tuesday.