The US released video of a Black Sea drone incident involving a Russian aircraft
The US military has released footage purporting to show US drones being insecurely intercepted by Russian jets over the Black Sea.
The US said Tuesday that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet shot down one of the Reaper drones during a surveillance and reconnaissance mission, forcing US operators to shoot it down in international waters. Russia has denied deliberately shooting down the drone.
The released 42-second footage, released by the US European Command, shows a Su-27 fighter approaching the tail of the MQ-9 drone and dumping fuel near it in what US officials say is an apparent attempt to blind its optical instruments.
The excerpts released also show the loss of the video feed following another Russian close maneuver, which the Pentagon says was the result of the Russian plane's collision with the drone. It ends with an image of the drone's damaged propeller, which the Pentagon says was the result of a crash and rendered the plane unusable
Russia has denied US accusations that its aircraft acted recklessly in the first direct US-Russian incident since the war in Ukraine last year. Instead, he blamed the drone's "sharp maneuvers" for the crash and claimed their jet failed to make contact.
Commenting on the video, Samir Puri, a visiting lecturer in military studies at King's College London, said he didn't think it was possible to determine with certainty whether the encounter was intentional or not.
"If the Russian pilot intends to physically disable the drone by flying so close that he actually touches his own aircraft, that is a very risky maneuver for the pilot to perform," he told Al Jazeera.
"I still think that in general it could be something the Russians will do to get very close to showing that of course they want to show that they own these skies and that the Americans don't fly these reconnaissance flights can't be bothered."
threat of escalation
While phone tapping is not uncommon, the incident amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised fears it could bring pro-Kiev Washington and Moscow closer to a direct clash.
Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke on Wednesday about the incident with their Russian counterparts, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
The Russian Defense Ministry, in its report on the conversation with Austin, said Shoigu accused the US of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions imposed by the Kremlin due to its military operations in Ukraine.
Russia also accused "the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation".
Such US action "is fraught with an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea region," the ministry said, warning that Russia "will respond in kind to any provocation."