US officials say surveillance flights over the Black Sea have resumed despite Russia’s downing of the MQ-9 Reaper drone.
Russia has awarded state awards to the two fighter pilots involved in the downing of a US surveillance drone that crashed into the Black Sea, the Russian defense ministry said, as US officials announced that its spy flights in the region have resumed.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday presented the awards to the pilots of the Su-27 fighter jets, praising their performance in preventing the drone from flying into an area near Crimea to which Moscow has banned entry.
“The drone was flying with transponders disabled, thus violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary airspace use regime established for the special military operation(s) communicated to all users of international airspace,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. statement, according to The Moscow Times.
Pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov said the awards for the pilots were “a clear sign that Russia will continue to shoot down American drones.”
“This decision will receive strong support from Russian society, which wants the government to tighten its policies,” Markov wrote in a commentary.
The Russian presentation of the awards comes a day after the US military released a declassified 42-second video clip showing the Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepting and passing the drone at close range while dumping fuel in an apparent attempt to destroy the optical and other hi-tech instruments.
The US military said it was forced to ditch the MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea after one of the Russian jets struck the drone’s propeller while it was flying in international airspace. Russia has denied that its jets caused any physical damage to the US drone, claiming it crashed during a sharp maneuver.
US officials have said recovering what is left will be difficult because of the deep water in the Black Sea. But Russian state media reported that Russian naval forces discovered the wreckage of the drone some 60km (37 miles) from the Crimean port city of Sevastopol at a depth of 850-900 meters (2,788-2,952 feet), according to The Moscow Times.
Although Moscow and Washington initially exchanged strong words about the drone incident, the US seemed to ease the tension by stating that it was unknown whether the Russian pilot had deliberately hit the drone.
Russian officials also stressed the need to maintain lines of communication with Washington after the incident, while at the same time harshly denouncing the US for conducting surveillance flights on its borders and sharing military intelligence with Ukraine that would be used to target Russian troops. to fall.
US officials said on Friday that surveillance drone flights over the Black Sea had already resumed.
An RQ-4 Global Hawk flew a mission to the region on Friday, two officials told Reuters news agency, adding that it was the first such drone flight since the downing of the drone on Tuesday.