- Russia's state media didn't say much about the incident, but some politicians tried to use it as proof that the US was in direct conflict with Moscow.
- "The most important thing is that everyone respects international air space, and we ask the Russians to do the same."
After a Russian warplane hit and shot down an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that the country would keep doing surveillance flights.
“Make no mistake, the US will continue to fly and operate wherever international law allows,” Austin said at the start of a virtual meeting of about 50 countries that are helping Ukraine fight Russia.
Austin said, “This dangerous incident is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe behaviour by Russian pilots in international airspace.” “Russia needs to make sure that its military planes are run in a safe and professional way.” The incident, which was the first known physical contact between the Russian and US militaries since the war in Ukraine started, has made things worse between the two superpowers.
Both the US and Ukraine have said that the American MQ-9 Reaper drone, which was not armed, was flying in international air space on a normal mission to spy and look around.
Moscow was careless, according to the Pentagon, which said that Russian planes had dumped fuel on an American drone on Tuesday. One of the Russian planes then hit the drone’s propeller, which forced its US operators to bring it down in the Black Sea. The drone crashed in waters southeast of Snake Island, about 48 km from the Ukrainian coast, according to Ukrainian officials.
The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said that the incident was “President Putin’s signal that he is ready to bring other parties into the conflict zone.”
Russia said its plane didn’t hit the drone and asked the US to stop flying military planes near its territory. The Russian defence ministry’s top spokesman, Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said on Wednesday, “I want to stress that the Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their base airfield.”
He said that the drone was flying “in the direction” of Russia’s border and that the fighter jets were sent “to find the intruder.”
Wednesday, Moscow told Washington to stay far away from its air space. “The unacceptable activity of the US military close to our borders is a cause for concern,” Russia’s ambassador Anatoly Antonov said. He accused Washington of using drones to “gather intelligence that is then used by the Kyiv regime to strike at our armed forces and territory.”
“Let’s ask a rhetorical question: what would the US air force and navy do if, say, a Russian strike drone showed up near New York or San Francisco?” he said, calling on the US to “stop making sorties near Russia’s borders.” Russia’s state media didn’t say much about the incident, but some politicians tried to use it as proof that the US was in direct conflict with Moscow. In an interview with the Russian state news agency Tass, Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Russian parliament’s committee on international affairs, said that it “once again proves the involvement of the United States in the Ukrainian conflict.”
In the meantime, Ben Wallace, who is in charge of British defence, asked Moscow to respect international airspace. “The most important thing is that everyone respects international air space, and we ask the Russians to do the same.”