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Russia denounces ‘enemy’ flights after US drone crash

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

The US European Command said two Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle over international waters on Tuesday and one cut its propeller.

Russia denied this and suggested the drone crashed because of “sharp manoeuvring”.

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

“We expect the United States to refrain from further media speculation and halt flights near Russian borders,” Russia’s Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday.

“We view any action involving the use of US weapons as openly hostile,” he wrote on social media channel Telegram.

The Kremlin said relations with the United States were in a “deplorable state” and at the lowest possible level. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters there had been no high-level contact with Washington over the incident, but said Russia will never refuse to engage in constructive dialogue.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it had grounded fighter jets after spotting a US drone over the Black Sea.

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

“As a result of a sharp maneuver … the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with loss of altitude and collided with the water surface,” the ministry said, adding that the two Russian jets had no contact with US planes and did not use their weapons .

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the United States is now trying to prevent the downed drone from falling into the wrong hands.

“We have taken steps to protect our stock in relation to this particular drone — this particular aircraft,” Kirby told CNN.

Regular interjections

Russian intercepts over the Black Sea are common, Kirby said in Washington, but this one was “remarkable because it was unsafe and unprofessional, even reckless that it was.”

NATO diplomats in Brussels confirmed the incident but said they didn’t expect it to escalate immediately into another confrontation.

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

“I think diplomatic channels will mitigate this,” the source said.

Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has fueled fears of a direct confrontation between Moscow and the NATO alliance, which has armed Kiev to help it defend itself.

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

“Unflyable and Uncontrollable”

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

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

“In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional action by the Russians almost caused both planes to crash,” he said.

“US and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we urge Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the drone was “unairworthy and uncontrollable, so we brought it down,” adding that the collision also likely damaged the Russian plane that was able to land after the incident.

Several US Reapers have been lost in recent years, including to enemy fire.

One was shot down over Yemen in 2019 by 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 1,800 miles at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, according to the US Air Force.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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