KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Russian fighter jet has hit a propeller The US said US forces shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle in a “brazen violation of international law” by a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.
But Russia insisted its warplanes did not attack the MQ-9 Reaper drone. Instead, it said the drone made a sharp maneuver and crashed into the water following an encounter with Russian warplanes that were chasing it to intercept it near Crimea.
The incident, which added to Russia-US tensions in Moscow’s war in Ukraine, appeared to be the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft was downed after a collision with a Russian fighter jet.
National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan briefed US President Joe Biden on the incident, according to White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby. He said US State Department officials would speak directly with their Russian counterparts and “express our concerns about this unsafe and unprofessional interception”.
State Department spokesman Ned Price called it “a brazen violation of international law.” He said the US had summoned the Russian ambassador to protest, and US Ambassador to Russia Lynn Tracy had made similar comments in Moscow.
US European Command said the drone was operating in international airspace when it was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets. It said US forces shot the MQ-9 down in international waters after one of its Russian fighters hit its propeller.
Before that, Su-27s had dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and flown in front of it several times in an “irresponsible, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the US European Command said in a statement from Stuttgart, Germany.
“This incident is unsafe and unprofessional and demonstrates a lack of competence,” it added.
US Air Force General James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Force Europe and Air Force Africa, said the MQ-9 aircraft was “conducting routine operations in international airspace when a Russian aircraft was intercepted and attacked, resulting in the accident. And the total loss of the MQ-9.” “In fact, it was this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians that caused both planes to crash,” he added.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. General Pat Ryder said the incident occurred at 7:03 a.m. Central European Time (0603 GMT; 2:03 a.m. EST) after Russian jets flew close to the drone at 30 a.m. over international waters and well clear of Ukraine. Up to 40 minutes. There did not appear to be any contact between the planes before the collision, Ryder added.
The MQ-9 includes a ground control station and satellite equipment and has a 66-foot (20-meter) wingspan. It’s capable of carrying ammunition, but Rider won’t say whether it’s armed. The U.S. has not recovered the crashed drone, U.S. Air Force-Europe said in a statement, and Ryder said Russia has not.
The Russian plane also appears to have been damaged in the collision, but the US has confirmed that it has landed, although it has not said where the rider was.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the U.S. drone was flying over the Black Sea near Crimea and had penetrated an area declared off-limits by Russia as part of what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, prompting the military to scramble to intercept the militants. It is.
“As a result of a sharp maneuver, the MQ-9 drone went into an unguided flight with altitude loss and crashed into water,” it said. “The Russian fighters did not use their weapons, did not interact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their base.”
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, described the US drone flight as a “provocation” and argued that there was no reason for US military aircraft and warships to be near Russia’s borders.
Speaking after meeting with US Assistant Secretary for Europe Karen Tonfried, Antonov insisted that Russian warplanes did not attack the US drone or fire their weapons. He said that Moscow wants “practical” relations with Washington and that “we don’t want any conflict between the United States and Russia.”
Moscow has repeatedly raised concerns about US surveillance flights near the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed. The Kremlin has accused the US and its allies of being effectively involved in the conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons and sharing intelligence with Kiev.
Kirby stressed that the incident would not deter the US from continuing its work in the region.
“If the message is that they want to block or prevent us from flying over the Black Sea, in international airspace, that message will fail,” Kirby said. “We will continue to fly and operate in international airspace through international seas. The Black Sea does not belong to any nation.
US European Command said the incident followed a pattern of risky actions by Russian pilots when communicating with US and allied aircraft in international airspace, including over the Black Sea.
“These aggressive actions by the Russian Air Force are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unplanned escalation,” it warned.
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, said he was deeply concerned about these types of conflicts in that part of Europe and in the Pacific.
“Probably my biggest concern there and in the Pacific is if a Russia or China pilot or ship captain, or something, gets too close and doesn’t realize where they are and causes a collision,” Berger said in response to a question. Tuesday at a National Press Forum event.
As fighting continued in Ukraine, a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, killing at least one person and injuring nine in the Donetsk region, one of the main urban strongholds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a video showing holes in the facade of a low-rise building that bore the brunt of the strike, which damaged nine apartments, a kindergarten, a bank branch and two cars, regional governor Pavlo Kyrilenko said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking to workers at a helicopter factory in southern Siberia, once again called the conflict in Ukraine existential for Russia.
“For us, this is not a geopolitical task,” Putin said, “it is a task for the survival of the Russian state and the creation of conditions for the future development of our country.”
Russia has welcomed a Chinese peace proposal, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow has only military options as Kiev refuses to talk.
“We have to achieve our goals,” Peskov told reporters. “Given the current position of the Kyiv regime, it is now only possible by military means.”
Russia’s offensive has focused on the ruined eastern city of BaghmutKywin’s troops have held off the attacks for seven months, and it has become a symbol of resistance and a focal point of the war.
Zelenskyy discussed Bakhmut with military brass and they were unanimous in countering the Russian attack, the president’s office said.
“The (Bakhmut) defensive operation is of paramount strategic importance in deterring the enemy. This is important for the stability of the defense of the entire front line,” said Valery Zalushny, commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Lolita C. Baldor, Tara Cop, Zeke Miller, Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington, and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine