The United States accused the Russian air force of recklessly “intercepting and crashing” a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, an act that sparked outrage in Washington.
General James Hecker, commander of the US Air Force in Europe, issued a statement confirming that the MQ-9 Reaper drone was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was “intercepted and struck by a Russian plane, which caused an accident and the total loss of the MQ-9”. In a statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the event as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The incident marks the latest in a series of escalating tensions between the two countries, especially in the skies. In recent months, there have been multiple reports of Russian jets buzzing over US planes and ships in the region, as well as other incidents of Russian military aircraft harassing US aircraft in the region.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied any involvement in the incident, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the US accusations were “baseless”.
US Army General John W. Nicholson has warned that US and allied drones will continue to operate in international airspace, and has urged the Russians to act safely and professionally. In addition, he has stressed that any aggressive action could trigger an escalation of miscalculations.