Russian Ambassador Summoned Over Drone Incident

He claims US drone's Black Sea flight was a 'provocation'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2023 7:52 PM CDT
Russian Ambassador Summoned Over Drone Incident
In this undated photo provided by the US Air Force, a MQ-9 Reaper is seen over southern Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt, US Air Force, File)

A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday in a "brazen violation of international law," causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle, the US said. But Russia insisted its warplanes didn't hit the MQ-9 Reaper drone. Instead, it said the drone maneuvered sharply and crashed into the water following an encounter with Russian fighter jets that had been scrambled to intercept it near Crimea. The incident, which added to Russia-US tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, 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 AP reports.

President Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, according to White House national security spokesman John Kirby. He added that State Department officials would be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts and "expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept." State Department spokesman Ned Price called it a "brazen violation of international law." He said the US summoned the Russian ambassador to lodge a protest and the US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, has made similar representations in Moscow.

The Russian ambassador to Washington, 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 insisted that the Russian warplanes didn't hit the American drone or fire their weapons. He said Moscow wants "pragmatic" ties with Washington, adding that “we don't want any confrontation between the US and Russia.”

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Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the incident occurred in international waters. The US had not recovered the crashed drone, US Air Forces-Europe said in a statement, and neither had Russia, Ryder said. He said it appeared the Russian aircraft also was damaged in the collision. Kirby emphasized that the incident wouldn’t deter the US from continuing its 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," Kirby said. (More Russia stories.)

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