Moscow denies involvement in downing of American reaper drone over Black Sea - as US summons Russian ambassador

14 March 2023, 17:06 | Updated: 14 March 2023, 20:17

The White House has said the downing of an American drone was "unsafe and unprofessional",
The White House has said the downing of an American drone was "unsafe and unprofessional",. Picture: Alamy/Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea, causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle in international waters, the US military has said.

The White House said the downing of an American drone was "unsafe and unprofessional", but Moscow has denied involvement.

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry denied colliding with the American drone, suggesting the US aircraft went into "uncontrolled flight" due to "sharp manoeuvring".

US Air Force General James Hecker said: "Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9."

"In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.

"US and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely."

The State Department has now summoned Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the US.

The drone was downed over the Black Sea
The drone was downed over the Black Sea. Picture: Alamy
MQ-9 Reaper drone
MQ-9 Reaper drone. Picture: Getty

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

According to the US military, one of two Russian jets collided with a US drone over the Black Sea, causing the drone to crash at around 07:00 centrla European time.

The Russian fighter jets had been flying near the unmanned US drones for around 30 minutes before the crash.

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

It said one of the Russian fighters "struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters".

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Getty

Prior to that, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 several times before the collision in "a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner", the US European Command said in a statement from Stuttgart, Germany.

"This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional," it added.

Mr Kirby emphasised that the incident would not deter the US from continuing their missions in the area.

"If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying, and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, then that message will fail," Mr Kirby said, adding "that is not going to happen".

"We're going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters," he said.

"The Black Sea belongs to no one nation."

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