Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / Americas

US, Russia trade blows over drone downing near Crimea

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-03-16 07:07
Share - WeChat

Kremlin blames 'sharp maneuver' for crash while Pentagon calls intercept 'reckless'

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits an aviation factory in Buryatia on Tuesday. He again cast the conflict in Ukraine as an existential one for Russia. On the same day, a US drone crashed into the Black Sea, the first known direct confrontation between the superpowers since the conflict began. KREMLIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Russia and the United States on Wednesday offered different accounts of the downing of a US intelligence drone in the Black Sea, as the incident added to tensions between Moscow and Washington over the Ukraine crisis.

According to a Reuters report, the US military MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone crashed on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets. The Pentagon said one of the Russian Su-27 jets struck the propeller of the drone, making it inoperable, a claim denied by Moscow which blamed the drone's "sharp maneuver" for the crash and said its jets did not make contact.

The downing appeared to be the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft was brought down after an encounter with a Russian warplane, The Associated Press commented.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that relations with the US were "at their lowest point, in a very lamentable state", but Russia "has never refused constructive dialogue, and is not refusing now".

The Reaper, according to a statement by Russia's Defense Ministry on Tuesday, was flying over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula and intruded in an area that was declared off limits by Russia as part of its special military operation in Ukraine, causing the military to scramble fighters to intercept it.

"As a result of a sharp maneuver, the MQ-9 drone went into unguided flight with a loss of altitude and crashed into the water," it said. "The Russian fighters didn't use their weapons, didn't come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and they safely returned to their base."

The statement insisted that Russian warplanes did not hit or cause the crash of the drone, which the Pentagon said was on a routine "intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance" mission.

The MQ-9 includes a ground control station and satellite equipment and has a 20-meter wingspan. It can be armed with Hellfire missiles as well as laser-guided bombs and can fly for more than 1,770 kilometers, the US Air Force said.

The Pentagon called the intercept "reckless and unprofessional". But spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder would not say whether it was armed. The US had not recovered the crashed drone, US Air Forces-Europe said in a statement, and neither had Russia, he said.

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

He said US State Department officials would be speaking directly to their Russian counterparts and "expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept".Kirby emphasized that the incident would not deter the US from continuing its missions in the area.

Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the US, speaks with reporters after meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried in Washington on Tuesday. PATRICK SEMANSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Also in Washington, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov described the US drone flight as a "provocation" and argued that there was no reason for US military aircraft and warships to be near Russia's borders.

Speaking after meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried, Antonov reiterated that the Russian warplanes did not hit the US drone or fire their weapons. He added that Moscow wants "pragmatic" ties with Washington.

'Diplomatic channels'

"We assume that the US will refrain from further speculation in the media and stop flights near Russian borders. We consider any action with the use of US weaponry as openly hostile," Antonov wrote on Telegram on Wednesday.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced concerns about US intelligence flights close to Crimea, which joined Russia through a referendum in 2014.

The Kremlin has charged that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the US and its Western allies have effectively become engaged in the conflict.

A Western military source said diplomatic channels between Russia and the US could help limit any fallout.

"To my mind, diplomatic channels will mitigate this," the source told Agence France-Presse.

Agencies and Ren Qi in Moscow contributed to this story.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349