A US MQ-9 drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday morning after executing a sharp maneuver, according to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD).
The Biden admin is claiming a Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a U.S. surveillance drone in a “brazen violation of international law,” causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The U.S. European Command asserts that two Russian Su-27 fighter jets “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of a U.S. drone that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea.
But the Russian ministry is arguing that their fighters did not interact with the drone and did not employ any weapons during the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry explained that at 09:30 Moscow time, the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experienced an uncontrolled descent and subsequently collided with the water surface.
“The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their home airfield,” the ministry stated.
On the morning of the incident, Russia’s Aerospace Forces detected the MQ-9 drone flying over the Black Sea near the Crimean peninsula, approaching the Russian state border.
The defense ministry noted that the drone’s flight “was carried out with transponders turned off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards.”
Russian air defense forces scrambled fighter jets to identify the intruding aircraft, the ministry added.
During a press briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder declined to confirm whether the crashed MQ-9 Reaper drone was armed.
“I’m not going to get into the specific profile of this particular aircraft. As you know the MQ-9 does have the ability to be armed,” Ryder said.
Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, according to White House National Security spokesman John Kirby, who added that U.S. State Department officials would be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts and “expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept,” The Associated Press reports.