Russia denies downing US Reaper, Pentagon declines disclosing if armed
The US summons the Russian ambassador to Washington to protest the crash of a US MQ-9 drone into the Black Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied US allegations and said its fighter jets did not come into contact with the US MQ-9 drone that crashed into the Black Sea earlier, pointing out that the drone crashed due to "sharp maneuvering".
Earlier, the US European Command claimed that a Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on an American drone over the Black Sea and then collided with it, causing the drone to crash. The White House called the crash a result of "reckless" behavior by Russia.
"The Russian fighters did not use their onboard weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV and returned safely to their home airfield," the Ministry confirmed.
The Russian Defense Ministry indicated that the US drone fell into the Black Sea on Tuesday morning due to its own sharp maneuvering, confirming that Russian fighters did not come into contact with it and did not use weapons.
"As a result of sharp maneuvering around 09:30 Moscow time [06:30 GMT], unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 went into an uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface," the Ministry said.
The Ministry clarified that on Tuesday morning, the airspace control of the Russian Aerospace Forces had recorded the flight of the US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 over the Black Sea in the region of the Crimean peninsula in the direction of the Russian state border.
The flight of the drone "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," the statement read.
It added that Russian fighters from the air defense forces on duty were scrambled in order to identify the intruder.
US summons Russia ambassador over drone crash
Following the incident, the US summoned Russia's Ambassador to protest the crash, the State Department confirmed.
"We are engaging directly with the Russians, again at senior levels, to convey our strong objections to this unsafe, unprofessional intercept, which caused the downing of the unmanned US aircraft," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
Price said the Russian Ambassador in Washington has been convened at the State Department Tuesday afternoon and the American ambassador in Moscow registered a "strong objection" to the incident.
The spokesperson said the incident marked a clear violation of international law.
US had to crash drone in Black Sea after damage: Pentagon
On the other hand, the Pentagon claimed that the US military was forced to essentially crash its MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone because of the damage caused when it was allegedly struck by a Russian jet.
"Because of the damage, we were in a position to have to essentially crash into the Black Sea," Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters, adding that the drone was basically unflyable after the damage.
Ryder said Russia had not recovered the crashed drone at this point.
The Pentagon spokesperson declined to disclose whether the Reaper drone was armed, saying he is not "going to get into the specific profile of this particular aircraft. As you know the MQ-9 does have the ability to be armed."
Austin not in contact with Shoigu over drone crash
Elsewhere, Ryder said that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has not talked to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after the recent incident.
"In terms of Secretary Austin talking to his counterpart, not at this time," Ryder said. "To my knowledge, DOD [Defense Department] officials have not spoken specifically to Russian authorities on this particular incident."