Russian fighter jet flew “recklessly” at a US drone before colliding with the surveillance aircraft causing it to crash in the Black Sea, the US military has said.
Two Su-27 fighter jets struck the propeller of the unmanned MQ-9 drone over international waters, amid soaring American-Russian tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday.
The U.S. European Command said in a statement that two Russian Su-27 fighter jets “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of a U.S. 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 U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.”
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.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, which has repeatedly voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights close to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The US State Department has said it expects the Russian ambassador to the US to meet with senior US officials in Washington on Tuesday following the incident.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US ambassador to Moscow has conveyed a strong message to Russia’s foreign affairs ministry and US officials had briefed allies and partners over the incident.
The incident came as Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to “destroy” Russian forces in war-town Bakhmut as he warned Ukraine’s future rests on the fate of battles raging in the east of the country.
The Ukrainian president said soldiers were facing “very tough and painful” conditions in the area where the fight to win overall control of the destroyed mining town has become Europe’s bloodiest infantry battle since World War Two.
During his latest nightly address, Mr Zelensky said the “future of all Ukrainians” depended on the outcome of the intense fighting.
“It is very tough in the east, very painful,” he said. “We need to destroy the enemy’s military might, and we will.
“Bilohorivka and Maryinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kamyanka – and all other places where our future is being decided. Where our future, the future of all Ukrainians, is being fought for.”