Incident has sparked concerns that U.S. and Russia could be brought closer to direct conflict
The Pentagon has released footage of what it says is a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a U.S. air force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The 42-second video shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding its optical instruments and driving it out of the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian fighter that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone's propeller, damaging one blade, according to the U.S. military.
The U.S. military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea after what it described as the Russian fighter making an unsafe intercept of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The video excerpt released by the Pentagon does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation.
Russia said its warplanes didn't strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp manoeuvre over the sea.
Asked Thursday if Russia would try to recover the drone debris, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision was up to the military.
"If they consider it necessary to do so in the Black Sea for the benefit of our interests and our security, they will do it," he said.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, said Wednesday that Moscow would try to recover the drone fragments.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other's warplanes, but the drone incident marked the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft went down during such a confrontation, raising concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to a direct conflict.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed.
The top U.S. and Russian defence and military leaders spoke Wednesday about the destruction of the drone, underscoring the event's seriousness.
Calls between U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian General Staff, were the first since October.
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