‘It’s United States property’: The race to recover the downed drone


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Russia has warned the US to keep well away from its air space after an American drone intercepted by Russian jets crashed into the Black Sea.

The US and Russia traded blame for the incident, which took place in international air space near territory Russia claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

Russia called it proof that the US was directly participating in the war; the US called it an act of Russian recklessness.

Russia said it would try to recover the drone wreckage from the sea.

US officials said it might never be recovered and steps had been taken to ensure Russia could not gain intelligence from the wreckage.

“it’s the United States property. We obviously don’t want to see anybody getting their hands on it beyond us,” John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told CNN.

“The Americans keep saying they’re not taking part in military operations. This is the latest confirmation that they are directly participating in these activities – in the war,” Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said.

The US military said two Russian Su-27 fighter planes had approached one of its MQ-9 Reaper drones on a reconnaissance mission over international waters.

The fighters harassed the drone and sprayed fuel on it before one clipped the drone’s propeller, causing it to crash into the sea.

“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” James B Hecker, commander of US air forces in Europe, said.

John Kirby said US officials had told Russia’s ambassador Anatoly Antonov that it must be more careful: “The message was: don’t do this again.”

According to Russia’s account, there was no collision.

The drone crashed after making “sharp manoeuvres,” having “deliberately and provocatively” flown close to Russian air space.
Russia had scrambled its fighters to identify it.

“The unacceptable activity of the US military in the close proximity to our borders is a cause for concern,” Mr Antonov said in a statement, accusing the US of using drones to “gather intelligence which is subsequently used by the Kyiv regime to strike at our armed forces and territory”.

“Let us ask a rhetorical question: if, for example, a Russian strike drone appeared near New York or San Francisco, how would the US air force and navy react?” he said, calling on the US to “stop making sorties near the Russian borders”.

The Kremlin said there had been no high-level contacts with the US over the incident, describing bilateral relations as “lamentable”.

Ukraine, for its part, said the incident showed Russia was willing to “expand the conflict zone” to draw in other countries.

Russia was raising the stakes as it faces “conditions of a strategic defeat” in Ukraine, tweeted Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council.

The US conducts regular surveillance flights in international air space in the region.

It has supported Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars in military aid but says its troops have not become directly engaged in the war.

Defence ministers speak by phone – Russia

Russian officials say Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and US counterpart Lloyd Austin have spoken over the phone.

Russia said the request for the call came from the US but provided no other details of the conversation between Sergei Shoigu and his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin.

Contact between senior Russian and US officials has been rare in the year since Russia invaded Ukraine, with relations between the two sides having plummeted to their lowest in decades.


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