U.S. says Russia struck its drone propeller, Russia says drone crashed after own maneuvers

The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that a U.S. MQ-9 drone fell into the Black Sea due to its own sharp maneuvering, while the U.S. military said a Russian SU-27 fighter jet struck the propeller of a U.S. Air Force drone and made it crash into the sea.

"As a result of sharp maneuvering around 9:30 a.m. Moscow Time (0630 GMT), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

However, a statement published on the website of U.S. Department of Defense showed that Russian Su-27 aircraft struck a U.S. Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle's propeller, causing U.S. forces to bring it down into international waters of the Black Sea early Tuesday morning, citing the U.S. Air Force General James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.

According to the Russian defense ministry, Russian Aerospace Forces detected the MQ-9 UAV as it was approaching the state border over the Black Sea, and Russian fighter jets were scrambled to identify the intruder. "The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV, and returned safely to their home airfield," it added.

The Russian defense ministry said that the U.S. drone conducted its flight with its transponders turned off, and that it had violated "the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting the special military operation," adding that this information had already been communicated to all users of international airspace. 

As for Hecker, what the Russian aircraft had done demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.

After the incident happened, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov was summoned by the U.S. State Department. Antonov said that Moscow viewed the incident involving a Russian Su-27 fighter jet and a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea "as a provocation."

Antonov said his meeting at the State Department was "constructive," and the issue of possible "consequences" for Moscow over the incident was not raised, Russia's RIA state news agency reported.

"As for us, we do not want any confrontation between the United States and Russia. We are in favor of building pragmatic relations for the benefit of the Russian and American peoples," Antonov was quoted as saying.

Noting the incident, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Reuters on Wednesday that Moscow should respect international airspace.

(With input from agencies)

(Cover: A U.S. MQ-9 drone is on display during an air show at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, January 23, 2018. /CFP)

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