Russia urges US to halt ‘hostile’ flights after drone crash

Moscow warned of “hostile” US flights on Wednesday as tensions simmered a day after a Russian fighter jet was accused of colliding with a US drone over the Black Sea.

The U.S. European Command said two Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper over international waters on Tuesday and one of them severed its propeller.

Washington blamed Moscow for the incident, calling its fighters’ conduct reckless and unprofessional, but Russia denied any wrongdoing.

“We assume that the United States will refrain from speculation in the media and stop flights near Russian borders,” Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said Wednesday.

“We consider any action using US weapons as openly hostile,” he wrote on social media channel Telegram.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it dispatched fighter jets after a US drone was detected over the Black Sea and denied causing the crash.

The Pentagon said its drone was on a routine mission when it was intercepted “in a reckless, environmentally unfriendly and unprofessional manner”, while Russia countered that the plane was out of control .

“As a result of a brutal maneuver (…), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle entered an uncontrolled flight with loss of altitude and collided with the surface of the water,” said the ministry, adding that the two Russian planes had no contact with the American plane and did not use their weapons.

The US State Department said it had summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby went on to say, “obviously we refute the Russian denial.”

He added that the United States was trying to prevent the downed drone from falling into the wrong hands.

“We have taken steps to protect our actions with respect to this particular drone – this particular aircraft,” Kirby told CNN.

Regular interceptions

Russian interceptions over the Black Sea are common, Kirby told Washington, but this one “stands out for its dangerousness and lack of professionalism, if not recklessness.”

NATO diplomats in Brussels confirmed the incident, but said they did not expect it to escalate immediately into a new confrontation.

A Western military source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said diplomatic channels between Russia and the United States could help limit the fallout.

“In my view, diplomatic channels will mitigate this,” the source said.

Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has raised fears of a direct confrontation between Moscow and NATO, which has armed kyiv to help defend itself.

Reports of a missile strike in eastern Poland in November briefly raised alarm before Western military sources concluded it was a Ukrainian air defense missile, not a Russian one.

“Instealable and uncontrollable”

The United States uses MQ-9 Reapers for both surveillance and strikes and has long operated over the Black Sea keeping tabs on Russian naval forces.

“Our MQ-9 aircraft was performing routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” the general said. US Air Force Commander US Air Force James Hecker. Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.

“In fact, this dangerous and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused the two planes to crash.

“American and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to behave professionally and safely,” he added.

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the drone was “unflyable and out of control, so we shot it down,” adding that the collision also likely damaged the Russian plane, which he said , was able to land after the incident.

Several American Reapers have been lost in recent years, particularly to hostile fire.

One of them was shot down in 2019 over Yemen with a surface-to-air missile fired by Houthi rebels, the US central command said at the time.

Reapers can be armed with Hellfire missiles as well as laser-guided bombs and can fly more than 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) at altitudes up to 15,000 meters (50,000 feet), according to the US Air Strength.

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