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A Russian fighter jet hit a U.S. drone over the Black Sea on March 14, U.S. officials said.
A Russian Su-27 aircraft “struck the propeller” of the drone, the U.S. European Command said in a statement.
The impact forced U.S. personnel to bring the drone, an unmanned MQ-9 model, down in international waters.
The drone was “conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in a statement.
Before the collision, two Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone in a “reckless environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the statement said, adding that the incident “demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker said.
U.S. officials said the latest incident was part of a pattern of “dangerous actions” by Russian pilots over international airspace, warning the “aggressive actions … could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
White House spokesman John Kirby said the incident on Tuesday was noteworthy because it was “unsafe and unprofessional.” U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed about the incident, Kirby added.
Russian officials have not commented yet on the scrap.
The incident took place as Russian troops pushed forward in waves along the frontline in eastern Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his view that Russia‘s very existence as a state was at stake in the war, which started in early 2022.
Putin has framed Moscow’s invasion as a defensive pushback against what he sees as a hostile West bent on expanding into territories historically ruled by Russia.
“So for us this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children,” Putin said during a visit to an aviation factory in Buryatia, some 4,400 kilometers (2,750 miles) east of Moscow.
Putin accused the West of using Ukraine as a tool to inflict “strategic defeat” on Russia. Kyiv and its Western allies say Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest that has destroyed Ukrainian cities, killed thousands of people, and forced millions more to flee their homes.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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