(Moscow) Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to fish out the American drone it is accused of crashing in the Black Sea and which it believes proves the involvement of the United States in the conflict in Ukraine, Washington announcing its side investigate Moscow’s motives in this incident.
The Reaper MQ-9 fell in international waters after being hit, according to Washington, by a Russian fighter. Moscow admits the interception of the aircraft by its fighter jets, but denies any contact that would have led to the crash. Russia argues that the drone had entered, off the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014, a no-fly zone that it itself decreed for its operation in Ukraine.
“I cannot speak at this stage of a motive or an intention (on the part of the Russians, editor’s note), but what I can say very clearly is that it was a thoughtless action and dangerous,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, visiting Addis Ababa.
Kyiv has accused Russian forces of deliberately crashing the Reaper to send a message to Washington as they struggle to gain ground in Ukraine.
In the east of the country, Russian forces are still storming the small town of Bakhmout, which the Ukrainians have been defending fiercely for months, the Ukrainian army said in its daily report. “Our defenders repelled enemy attacks near the villages of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Bogdanivka,” she added.
Further south, “because of their powerlessness, the occupiers are terrorizing civilians” in the Kherson region, according to the same source.
“A signal from Putin”
In this context and as Western heavy tank deliveries to the Ukrainians have begun, the neutralization of the Reaper drone is “a signal from Putin that he is ready to expand the conflict zone and involve other parties in it”, Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Twitter.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reacted by emphasizing on Wednesday that the United States would continue to fly “where international law permits”.
“It is Russia’s responsibility to fly its military aircraft in a professional and safe manner,” Mr. Austin added during a press conference, after a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
France, whose forces are present in Romania in particular within the framework of NATO, has abounded in this direction.
“Freedom of navigation in international airspace must be respected and acts of intimidation are not acceptable,” the foreign ministry said.
“We call on Russia to comply with international law on this subject, as on all those from which it has deviated”.
Russia, for its part, has announced that it will endeavor to find the device and recover it to analyze the very sophisticated observation equipment.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to reach it or not, but we have to try. And we will necessarily take care of it, and I hope of course successfully, ”said Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Russian television.
He said the incident proved that the United States “is directly involved […] at war “.
Washington has “taken action”
A White House spokesman, John Kirby, previously told CNN that the United States had “taken steps” to ensure that the drone or its equipment could not fall into enemy hands.
Russia held the United States responsible for the incident and the tensions it aroused, calling on Washington to stop “hostile” drone flights.
“Any incident causing tension between the two major nuclear powers is fraught with very significant risks for global security,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday evening on Russian television.
The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, summoned by the American State Department, had already indicated that Moscow considered the presence of American drones in the area as a threat, ordering the American forces to cease “their flights near the Russian borders” after being summoned by the US State Department.
It is the first time since the start of the Russian assault on Ukraine on February 24, 2022 that a NATO country has admitted to having lost equipment operated by itself in this highly flammable region.
The Reaper drone is a 20-meter wingspan remotely piloted aircraft, equipped with on-board sensors for surveillance, as well as armament. Flying at a cruising speed of 335 km/h, it has a range of more than 24 hours.
The skies of the Black Sea are the scene of very regular interactions between drones and aircraft from NATO countries and the Russian armed forces, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine.