USA TODAY US Edition
US claims video proof of Russia’s drone lies
The Pentagon released footage Thursday of what it says is a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a U.S. drone, damaging the propeller and forcing U.S. controllers to crash land the device in the Black Sea on Tuesday.
Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” with an Air Force reconnaissance MQ-9 Reaper flying in international airspace, the Pentagon said in a release issued with the video.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the video provided “clear and convincing evidence of the account we laid out there” and shows “the Russians have been flat-out lying.” But he said it was not clear the pilot intended to strike the unmanned aircraft, so officials were unable to say if it was deliberate.
Kirby said the United States is not seeking conflict with Russia. Still, the incident further escalated tensions between two global powers already sharply at odds since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year spurred the United States into providing billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv and leading a coalition opposing the aggression.
Russian military authorities said they will attempt to retrieve and study the wreckage of the American drone, which is the size of a small plane and is valued at $32 million. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that such a search was “the prerogative of the military, if they deem it necessary to do that in the Black Sea for our interests and for our security.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the drone sank into waters more than 4,000 feet deep, probably was destroyed and that “mitigating measures” were taken to ensure no intelligence could be accessed.
Two Russian Su-27 fighters aggressively intercepted the drone Tuesday, demonstrating a “lack of competence,” according to U.S. European Command.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its fighter jets were trying to identify the “intruder” flying near Crimea when the drone’s own abrupt maneuvering caused it to crash. The ministry accused the United States of provoking the incident, saying the drone flew with its transponders off and “violating the borders” established by the Kremlin because of the war.