Russian ambassador accuses US of ‘provocation’ and claims its fighter did not take out US drone


The Russian ambassador has accused the US of an ‘act of provocation’ and claims its fighter did not hit a US drone that crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday.

‘We view this incident as a provocation,’ said Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the US. 

He made the comments after being summoned by the US State Department to answer for the downing of one of its surveillance drones in international airspace.

‘What would the be reaction of the United States if you see such a Russian drone very close to, for example, San Francisco or New York?’ Antonov asked reporters as he left the department building in Washington. ‘For me it’s clear, for you as well.’

The US surveillance drone crashed into the sea after a two Russian Su-27 jets ambushed it, dumped fuel on it, and eventually struck its propeller, the Pentagon said.

Russia has denied that any contact was made and says the drone crashed after ‘sharp maneuvering’. Its Defense Ministry claimed the drone was flying toward its airspace with its transponder turned off, and the Russian fighters were dispatched to investigate. 

Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, described the incident over the Black Sea involving a US MQ-9 Reaper drone and a Russian Su-27 as ‘an act of provocation’

Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, speaks with reporters after meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried at the US State Department on Tuesday

Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, speaks with reporters after meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried at the US State Department on Tuesday

The $32million US Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia

The $32million US Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia

‘There are some problems regarding international waters, for example, we can see that Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation. The United States does not recognize this status,’ said the ambassador.

‘Does it mean its necessary to provoke Russian navy of Russian Air Force on this issue?’ he asked.

‘The unmanned vehicle, this drone, can carry 1,700 kilos of explosives. This drone can carry a few bombs,’ he added.

Antonov said his meeting at the State Department was ‘constructive’ and the issue of possible ‘consequences’ for Moscow over the incident was not raised.

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

US officials said the drone was downed early on Tuesday after an ‘unsafe and unprofessional intercept’ in international airspace by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets. 

They said the Russian jets flew around and in front of the drone several times for 30 to 40 minutes 

Pentagon officials said the Russian fighters harassed the drone by dumping fuel on it, before one Su-27 clipped the propeller of the $32 million drone, forcing it down over the Black Sea in a total loss of the unmanned aircraft. 

‘This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,’ said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder in a press briefing.

Ryder said the collision likely also damaged the Russian fighter jet, but the Su-27 was able to land. He would not say where it landed. 

In a statement, Russia’s Defense Ministry denied colliding with the US drone, saying the American aircraft went into ‘uncontrolled flight’ due to ‘sharp maneuvering’.  

The incident happened in international airspace, but not far from the battles raging on the front lines of the war in Ukraine, amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country.

According to US officials the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets that dumped fuel on top of the drone before clipping its propeller, causing it to crash

According to US officials the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets that dumped fuel on top of the drone before clipping its propeller, causing it to crash

'This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,' said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder (above)

‘This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,’ said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder (above) 

A Russian fighter jet collided with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone (like the one seen above) over the Black Sea on Tuesday

A Russian fighter jet collided with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone (like the one seen above) over the Black Sea, the US military confirmed today

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets (like the one seen above) conducted an 'unsafe and unprofessional intercept' in international airspace, the US said

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets (like the one seen above) conducted an ‘unsafe and unprofessional intercept’ in international airspace, the US said

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the incident, said White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby, who slammed Russia’s actions as reckless and dangerous. 

The Russian Defense Ministry has rejected that claim.

‘Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact with the American drone,’ the ministry said in a statement.

‘Due to sharp maneuvering, the American drone went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface,’ the statement added.

Kirby, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday morning that the State Department ‘will be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts, and expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept.’ 

‘If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying, operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail,’ said Kirby.

‘We don’t need to have some sort of check-in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace. There’s no requirement to do that nor do we do it,’ Kirby added.

While the United States is not sailing warships in the Black Sea, it has routinely been flying surveillance aircraft in and around the area.

In fact, the incident may spur NATO to increase its presence over the Black Sea.

‘This was probably a big mistake by a Russian pilot. There’s going to be a denouncement of this and a démarche issued by the United States. You’re not going to see any drones flying alone,’ former US Army General Mark Hertling said during an appearance on CNN on Tuesday.

‘You may see US aircraft, NATO aircraft intensifying their presence in the Black Sea area within hours,’ Hertling added.

Putin on Tuesday visited the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in Buryatia, Russia, where he reaffirmed his view that Russia's very existence as a state was at stake in the war

Putin on Tuesday visited the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in Buryatia, Russia, where he reaffirmed his view that Russia’s very existence as a state was at stake in the war

Russian Sukhoi SU-27 

Type: Fighter jet

Crew: One

Top speed: 1,550mph

Length: 72ft

Wing span: 48ft

Range: 2,193 miles

Cost: $30million 

Armament: 30mm cannon air-to-air/land missiles, rockets and bombs 

 

 

US MQ-9 Reaper 

Type: Surveillance drone

Remote crew: Two

Top speed: 300mph

Length: 36ft

Wing span: 66ft

Range: 1,150 miles

Cost: $32million 

Armament: AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II, and GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions

‘Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting 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,’ said US Air Force General James Hecker, who oversees the US Air Force in the region. 

‘In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash,’ added Hecker.

The general went on to vow that ‘US and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.’

European Command said in a statement the incident ‘follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots’ over international airspace, including the Black Sea. 

‘These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation,’ the statement added.

The mid-air collision between a US-made Reaper and the Su-27 fighter jet occurred at 7.03am CET (2.03am ET) on Tuesday.

Some analysts suggested the Russians may have been trying to down the much smaller unmanned aircraft in such a way that would allow them to recover its data.

General Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said the incident occurred over international waters, and well clear of Ukraine.

There did not appear to be any communications between the aircraft before the collision, Ryder added.

The MQ-9 is capable of carrying munitions, but Ryder declined to comment on whether it was armed or the specifics of its mission, saying only that the drone is designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Ryder also declined to identify the base from which the destroyed MQ-9 had launched.

The US has MQ-9s forward deployed to several NATO ally bases in Europe, including NAS Sigonella in Italy, Miroslawiec AB in Poland, Campia Turzii in Romania and Larissa Air Base in Greece. 

US officials said that neither the US nor Russia had recovered the destroyed drone as of Tuesday night local time. 

The US does not have warships on the Black Sea, but on Tuesday night public flight data showed a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft was patrolling over the Romanian coastline, possibly related to a recovery operation. 

On Tuesday night public flight data showed a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft was patrolling over the Romanian coastline, possibly related to a recovery operation

On Tuesday night public flight data showed a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft was patrolling over the Romanian coastline, possibly related to a recovery operation

A Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol plane of the US Air Force flies over neutral waters of the Black Sea in a photo taken by Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighters that intercepted it in July 2021

A Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol plane of the US Air Force flies over neutral waters of the Black Sea in a photo taken by Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighters that intercepted it in July 2021

In Brussels, NATO’s senior military commander, General Christopher Cavoli, informed allies about the incident, an alliance official said.

It occurred as Russian troops pushed forward in waves along the frontline in eastern Ukraine, as President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his view that Russia’s very existence as a state was at stake in the war.

In the eastern Donbas region, Russia and Ukraine are locked in the bloodiest infantry battle in Europe since World War Two after Moscow launched a winter offensive.

Putin has framed Moscow’s year-long invasion of Ukraine as a defensive pushback against what he sees as a hostile West bent on expanding into territories historically ruled by Russia.

‘So for us this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children,’ Putin said during a visit to an aviation factory in Buryatia, some 2,750 miles east of Moscow.

Putin accuses the West of using Ukraine as a tool to inflict ‘strategic defeat’ on Russia. 

Kyiv and its Western allies say Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest that has destroyed Ukrainian cities, killed thousands of people and forced millions more to flee their homes.

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