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Russia sees Black Sea drone incident 'as provocation': envoy

15.03.2023 09:15
Russia regards Tuesday’s incident involving its Su-27 fighter jet and a US military drone over the Black Sea "as provocation," Moscow’s ambassador to Washington has said. 
The MQ-9 Reaper military drone.
The MQ-9 Reaper military drone.PAP/Marcin Bielecki

Anatoly Antonov made the comment on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, the envoy was summoned by the US State Department over the drone incident. 

“We view this incident as provocation,” Antonov told reporters.

The US military MQ-9 surveillance drone crashed into the Black Sea in the early hours of Tuesday after a Russian Su-27 fighter struck its propeller, the Pentagon said. 

It was the first such incident since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Reuters noted.

US forces described the incident as an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept, while Russia has denied that any contact was made, saying the US unmanned aerial vehicle crashed after "sharp manoeuvering," according to news reports.

The Russian ambassador said his meeting at the State Department was "constructive" and the matter of possible "consequences" for his country over the incident was not raised, Reuters reported.

Antonov further said: "As for us, we do not want any confrontation between the United States and Russia. We are in favour of building pragmatic relations for the benefit of the Russian and American peoples."

Russian fighter jet collided with drone: US military

According to US European Command, the incident happened just after 7 a.m. on Tuesday, when two Russian Su-27 fighter jets flew up to the MQ-9 Reaper drone over international waters west of Crimea. 

The Russian pilots sought to disrupt the US aircraft, the US European Command said in a statement.

Eventually, one of the Russian fighters collided with the US UAV, forcing it down into the Black Sea, according to US officials.  

The US Department of Defence also said the drone was on a routine ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) mission. 

The Pentagon press secretary, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, told a media briefing that Russia did not have the drone, Poland's PAP news agency reported. 

He would not say whether Russia was seeking the wreckage so that its military intelligence could analyse it, according to the Polish state news agency.

“The U.S. Air Force routinely flies aircraft throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws and will continue to do so,” Ryder also told the media.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said that its fighters “did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact” with the American UAV. 

The ministry said fighters from its air defence forces “were raised into the air to identify the drone,” which the ministry said was heading “in direction of the state border of the Russian Federation,” Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported.

Ukraine to keep defending Bakhmut: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his military commanders have agreed to keep defending the country’s embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, according to news outlets.

In a video address to the nation on Tuesday night, Zelensky said: “I held a meeting of the Staff. There were reports from the Commander-in-Chief, intelligence, and commanders of directions.”

He added, as cited by the Ukrinform news agency: “The main focus is on the Khortytsia operational and strategic group of troops and Bakhmut. There is a clear position of the entire Staff: to reinforce this direction, to inflict maximum possible damage upon the occupier."

Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, said the defence of Bakhmut was of “paramount strategic importance.” 

He stated, as quoted by The Guardian: "It is key to the stability of the defence of the entire front."

Wednesday is day 385 of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 


Source: PAP, Reuters, defense.gov, The Guardian, Ukrinform, president.gov.ua