After the crash of an unmanned military drone over the Black Sea, the American military has released footage of the incident. It shows how a Russian fighter plane releases fuel when approaching the drone and then flies extremely close. Overall, the incident with the Russian fighter jet lasted 30 to 40 minutes, according to the Ministry of Defense in Washington, the published video shows the decisive moments.
The camera of the MQ-9 Reaper is pointed backwards on the published images, partly the propeller of the drone can be seen. In a second approach, the Russian Su-27 again let off gasoline and then collided with the drone, as the American command center for Europe announced on Thursday. However, the collision is not seen in the video. According to US information, the camera failed for about a minute. Subsequently, the partially damaged propeller of the drone can be seen in the video.
According to American information, the drone had collided on Tuesday in international airspace over the Black Sea with a Russian fighter jet. The US military described that two Russian fighter jets had begun an interception maneuver. One of the fighter jets hit the propeller of the US drone. The US complained of "unprofessional", "unsafe" and "reckless" behaviour by Russian pilots.
"We have video evidence of all of this," said Chief of Staff Mark Milley. Asked whether the Russian pilots had acted intentionally, he said that the interception and aggressive action had been carried out intentionally by the Russian side. Whether the fighter plane also intentionally hit the drone and forced it to the ground remains to be seen.
Russia accuses the US of provocation
Moscow presents the incident quite differently and denies any responsibility. The Russian warplanes had not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle. They had ascended to identify an unknown intruder over the Black Sea. The on-board radio had been switched off and the drone had set course for Russia's border. In a sharp evasive maneuver, she had rapidly lost altitude and crashed.
Russia's military accused the US of provocation. In a telephone conversation with his US counterpart on Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu pointed out that the US had not observed airspace closures in connection with the Ukraine war, the ministry said in Moscow. In addition, the US had intensified its intelligence activities against Russia. This is the reason for the incident. "It was emphasized that the flights of strategic US drones on the coast of Crimea have a provocative character," the statement said.
Austin did not comment on details of the conversation, but made clear that the United States would continue to fly and operate where international law allows. It is important to keep communication with Russia open. Milley stressed that the US did not want an escalation. "Incidents do happen. And we clearly do not want armed conflict with Russia," he said. He was responding to the question of whether the incident was an act of war.
Russia wants to try to recover the rubble in order to reveal what Washington actually intended to do with the drone mission. The US Chief of Staff stressed that the crashed US military drone probably had no value. The drone is U.S. property, and there is "probably not much to recover." With regard to the information collected by the drone, the US had taken "damage limitation measures, as is customary in such cases".
The drone is probably in about 1200 to 1500 meters water depth, you know the place, Milley said. The recovery at this depth is "very difficult for everyone". The US itself has no ships on the ground. "But we have many allies and friends in the region who will help with the salvage work."
The disclosure of the material could follow a pattern of the Americans in recent months. With a view to the Ukraine conflict, the US government had repeatedly published intelligence information and lifted its secrecy in order to refute Russia's claims.
In view of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the situation is particularly tense and there is great fear that the US and Russia could get into a direct military confrontation.