KYIV, Ukraine — The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a US Air Force surveillance drone before the warplane clipped the drone’s propeller in international airspace, leading to its crash in the Black Sea and raising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.
Poland, meanwhile, said it’s giving Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
The US military’s declassified 42-second color footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone’s optical instruments to drive it from the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian fighter that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging a blade, according to the US military, which said it then ditched the unmanned aircraft in the sea.
The video excerpt released by the Pentagon does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation and does not show the Russian warplane striking the drone.
Russia said its fighters didn’t strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp maneuver.
Asked Thursday if Russia would try to recover the drone debris, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision was up to the military. “If they consider it necessary to do so in the Black Sea for the benefit of our interests and our security, they will do it,” he said. Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Wednesday that an attempt would be made.
US officials have expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia managed to retrieve the wreckage. They left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32 million aircraft, which they said crashed into waters that were 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep, although the US does not have any ships in the area.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other’s warplanes, but the drone incident marked the first time since the Cold War that a US aircraft went down during such a confrontation, raising concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to a direct conflict.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about US intelligence flights near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed.
The top US and Russian defense and military leaders spoke Wednesday about the destruction of the drone, underscoring the event’s seriousness.
The calls between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as well as between Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian General Staff, were the first since October.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in its report of the call with Austin that Shoigu accused the US of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions the Kremlin had imposed because of its military operations in Ukraine.
The Kremlin argues that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the US and its allies have effectively become engaged in the war, now in its 13th month.
Such US actions “are fraught with escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area,” the Defense Ministry said, warning that Moscow “will respond in kind to all provocations.”
The MQ-9, which has a 66-foot wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, would not say whether the ditched drone had been armed.
Biden is the Weakest President ever...Our Enemies realize this Rat Brained "GIFT" will only be in office for a little less than 2 years....China is hoping that with Joe Biden's help, they can invade Taiwan, before Biden the Weak Pedophile is out of Office. Expect more of this..it will get worse....Maybe Nukes will be next..and remember that the Rat Brained POS Biden.... has his hand on the "Button" (OK...He probably lost the button months ago..... or sold it to China) Enjoy...as I am sure your Children are enjoying it....while waiting for their Trans Surgery.
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