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Moscow alarm over RAF 'permission to down Russian planes'

Russia summoned Britain's military attache to explain reports that RAF pilots had been given the green light to shoot down Russian war planes in the Middle East, the Foreign Office has said.

It was reported that RAF Tornado fighters homing in on Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq had been equipped with missiles designed for aerial combat - reports the Foreign Office described as "inaccurate".

The Russian ambassador in London, Alexander Yakovenko, said he "urgently requested explanations" from the Foreign Office, The Times said.

Britain's Moscow defence attache met the Russian Ministry of Defence on Sunday and reiterated the UK's concerns about Russian military involvement in Syria.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Russian government sought clarification over inaccurate newspaper reports concerning RAF rules of engagement in Iraq.

"The defence attache reiterated the British government's concerns about Russia's military operation in Syria, including targeting legitimate opposition groups, using unguided weaponry and leading to large numbers of civilian deaths."

In recent days Russian jets have carried out strikes against targets in Syria. The Kremlin has insisted the action is designed to degrade IS, but the West has claimed other groups opposed to Syrian president Bashar Assad are also being hit.

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