The Pentagon has released footage of what it says is a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a US Air Force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The 42-second video, released Thursday, shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. The US military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea on Tuesday after the Russian fighter jet poured fuel on the unmanned aerial vehicle, in an apparent attempt to blind its optical instruments and drive it out of the area, and then struck its propeller.
The released excerpt does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley have spoken to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the US drone following the encounter with Russian fighter jets.
The calls with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday were the first since October.
While intercept attempts are not uncommon, the incident amid the war in Ukraine has raised concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to direct conflict.
That the two countries’ top defense and military leaders were talking so soon after the encounter over the Black Sea underscored its seriousness.
The Russian Defence Ministry said in its report of the call with Austin that Shoigu accused the U.S. of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions the Kremlin had imposed because of its military operations in Ukraine.
Russia also blamed “the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation.” Such US actions “are fraught with escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area,” the Defence Ministry said, warning that Russia “will respond in kind to all provocations.”