ALBAWABA - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu honored the pilots of the Su-27 jetfighter that downed a U.S. drone over the Black Sea, the defense ministry said in a statement Friday.
The move is a serious provocation to Washington, whose relations with Moscow strained following Russia's war on the Ukraine a year ago, but it is unlikely to lead to a direct military confrontation.
The statement, which was also posted on the ministry's Telegram account and other social media platforms, said the minister presented the "state awards to the pilots of the Su-27 aircraft, who prevented the violation by the American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle of the borders of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation." It did not disclose details on the awards.
On Thursday, the United States European Command released a video on Tuesday's downing of the drone, saying it was "unprofessionally" intercepted by a Russian Su-27 over the Black Sea.
JUST IN - U.S. releases a video showing the collision of the Russian fighter jet with the MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.pic.twitter.com/MHuGIUkxyL— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) March 16, 2023
In the video and a U.S. military statement released Thursday, the Russian jetfighter is seen approaching the drone, before it twice released unspecified liquid, which the statement described as "fuel."
Then, at 29 seconds into the video, the Russian warplane was seen crashing into the MQ-9 Reaper drone.
🇺🇸The US Ministry of Defense showed the moment of collision between the Russian Su-27 and the American MQ-9 over the Black Sea.— Iryna Buczkowski🇺🇦🇺🇸Їрина (@IrynaBuczkowski) March 16, 2023
In the video from the camera of the American drone, you can see how Russian planes dump fuel and then crash into it. pic.twitter.com/yTGF7xIOqU
The statement, however, stressed that the Russian jets did not collide with the drone, but that it suddenly lost control before it nose-dived. "As a result of sharp maneuvering around 9.30 (Moscow time), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface," according to the statement.
#Shoigu presented state awards to Su-27 fighter pilots who escorted the American MQ-9 Reaper drone before it crashed in the #BlackSea, the #Russian Defense Ministry said. pic.twitter.com/aqwJGQReBv— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 17, 2023
"The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their base airfield," it added.
It claimed that the drone was headed in the direction of Russian territory, with transponders off and that it flew in a prohibited zone. "The airspace control of the Russian Aerospace Forces recorded the flight of an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation," the statement said.
🇷🇺 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented for awarding the pilots of Su-27 aircraft, which prevented the violation of the borders of the special operation area by the American MQ-9 drone, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters on Friday. pic.twitter.com/3RqdGrReTx— marina alikantes (@Marianna9110) March 17, 2023
It said the flight was "carried out with transponders turned off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards.
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