Declassified footage shows Russian fighter jet downing US drone over Black Sea
The United States released a declassified video showing Russia’s interception of a US military drone over the Black Sea two days ago, saying it shows Moscow was lying about what happened.
The downing of the MQ-9 Reaper in international airspace was the first direct US-Russian incident in the Ukraine war. In the
video, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet can be seen coming close to the drone and dumping fuel near it, in what Washington said was an apparent effort to damage the drone.
Russia has denied accusations it acted recklessly, instead blaming “sharp manoeuvering” by the drone. Defence secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff chair General Mark Milley have spoken to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the US drone following the encounter with Russian fighter jets.
The calls with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, on Wednesday were the first since October. While intercept attempts are not uncommon, the incident during the war in Ukraine has raised concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to direct conflict.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the US had made it “impossible” for Russia to obtain any useful material from the downed drone. “Whatever’s left of that that’s floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing,” Mr Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“Probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of reengineering or anything like that. We’re not overly concerned about whatever they might get their hands on. It’s our property and they have no business recovering anything.”
The fact the two countries’ top defence and military leaders were talking so soon after the encounter over the Black Sea underscored the seriousness of the incident.
The Kremlin has said a decision on whether to retrieve the drone will come from Russia’s ministry of defence. “This is the prerogative of the military. If they believe that it is necessary for our interests and our security in the Black Sea, they will do it,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Earlier on Wednesday, the top US military general said that the drone had probably broken up and was in deep water, making its recovery difficult. “It probably sank to some significant depths, so any recovery operation from a technical standpoint would be very difficult,” Mr Milley told reporters.
The US was unable to reach the site before Russia as it currently has no Navy ships in the Black Sea.
Want your views to be included in The Independent Daily Edition letters page? Email us by tapping here firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your address