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The Pentagon says footage shows the Russian Su-27 approaching the rear of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes.
The US military has released footage of an unsafe interception of a US drone by a Russian aircraft over the Black Sea.
The US claimed on Tuesday that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided in international airspace with one of its Reaper surveillance drones, forcing it to crash into the sea. Russia denied that it deliberately shot down the unmanned aerial vehicles.
VIDEO: Two #Russian Su-27s performed an unsafe and unprofessional interception with @US Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 operating with international airspace over the #Black Sea March 14. @HQUSAFAFAF @DeptofDefense @NATO pic.twitter.com/LB3BzqkBpY
— US European Command (@US_EUCOM) March 16, 2023
The 42-second declassified footage released by the US European command shows the Su-27 fighter jet approaching the rear of the MQ-9 drone, the Pentagon said. The fighter jet poured fuel on the drone in an apparent attempt to blind its optics and drive it out of the area and then hit its propeller, he added.
The released fragment shows no events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation.
Commenting on the video, Samir Puri, a visiting lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said he didn’t think it was possible to determine with certainty whether the encounter was intentional or accidental.
“If the Russian pilot intended to physically disable this drone, for example by flying so close to it that it would hit his own plane, that is an extremely risky maneuver for that pilot,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I still think on balance this was something the Russians would do to get really close, to show of course that they want to show that they control this sky and that the Americans can’t fly these intelligence flights. undisturbed.”
While interception attempts are not uncommon, the incident during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns that it could push Kiev, the financier of Washington and Moscow, closer to direct conflict.
Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke with their Russian counterparts, Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, on Wednesday about the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry, in its account of the phone call with Austin, accused the US of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions imposed by the Kremlin over its military operations in Ukraine.
Russia also accused “the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation”.
Such US actions “are fraught with escalation of the situation in the Black Sea region,” the ministry said, warning that Russia “will respond in kind to all provocations.”