Russian fighter jet collides with US drone in skies over Black Sea


A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea in a “brazen violation of international law,” prompting American forces to shoot down the UAV, the US said.

Moscow said the US drone maneuvered sharply and crashed into the water after an encounter with Russian warplanes trying to intercept it near Crimea, but insisted its warplanes did not fire their weapons or hit the drone .

The incident, which sparked tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, appeared to be the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US plane was shot down after being hit by a Russian fighter jet.

MQ-9 drone

/ AP

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, according to White House National Security spokesman John Kirby.

He added that US State Department officials are speaking directly to their Russian counterparts and “would express our concern about this unsafe and unprofessional wiretapping.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price called it a “blatant violation of international law.”

He said the US had urged the Russian ambassador to lodge a protest and US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy had made similar statements in Moscow.

US European Command said in a statement that two Russian Su-27 fighter jets conducted “an unsafe and unprofessional interception” of a US MQ-9 drone operating in international airspace over the Black Sea.

It said one of the Russian fighters “hit the MQ-9’s propeller, resulting in US forces having to crash the MQ-9 in international waters.”

Prior to the collision, the Su-27s had dumped fuel and flown ahead of the MQ-9 several times “in a reckless, polluting and unprofessional manner,” the US European Command said in a statement from Stuttgart, Germany.

“This incident shows a lack of competence and is not only unsafe and unprofessional,” he added.

U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said the MQ-9 aircraft was “performing routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in the crash and a crash resulted in the complete loss of the MQ-9”.

He added that “this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians actually nearly caused both planes to crash.”

Pat Ryder

/ AP

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the incident happened at 7:03 a.m. Central European Time (0603 GMT) over international waters and well outside Ukraine, after the Russian jets spent 30 to 40 minutes in the vicinity of the drone had flown.

Before the collision, there appeared to be no communication between the planes, Brigadier General Ryder added.

The MQ-9 is capable of carrying ammunition, but Brigadier General Ryder would not say if it was armed.

The US did not recover the downed drone, US Air Forces-Europe said in a statement, and neither did Russia, Brigadier General Ryder said.

He said it appeared the Russian plane was also damaged in the collision, but the US had confirmed the fighter plane had landed, although Brigadier General Ryder would not say where.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the US drone was flying near its borders and had entered the area declared off-limits by Russia, prompting the military to intercept fighters in a bid to intercept them.

“As a result of a sharp maneuver, the US drone went into an uncontrollable flight with a loss of altitude” and crashed into the water, it said.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over US intelligence flights near the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The Kremlin has claimed that the US and its allies effectively interfered in the conflict by supplying arms to Ukraine and sharing intelligence with Kiev.

Mr Kirby stressed that the incident will not deter the US from continuing its missions in the region.

“If the message is that they discourage or want to discourage us from flying over the Black Sea and operating in international airspace, then that message will fail,” Kirby said, adding “that’s not going to happen.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the media during a news conference as Ukraine marks a year since the full-scale invasion of Russia

/ Getty Images

The incident came as Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to “destroy” Russian forces in the wartime city of Bakhmut, warning that Ukraine’s future depends on the fate of the fighting raging in the east of the country.

Ukraine’s president said soldiers were facing “very harsh and painful” conditions in the area, where the battle for overall control of the devastated mining town has become Europe’s bloodiest infantry battle since World War II.

During his last night’s speech, Zelenskyy said the “future of all Ukrainians” depended on the outcome of intense fighting.

“It’s very hard in the East, very painful,” he said. “We must destroy the enemy’s military might, and we will.

“Bilohorivka and Maryinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kamyanka – and all other places where our future will be decided. Where people are fighting for our future, the future of all Ukrainians.” Russian fighter jet collides with US drone in skies over Black Sea

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