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7 Jul, 2023 05:47

Pentagon alleges more ‘harassment’ by Russian jets (VIDEO)

Russia’s envoy to Washington said the latest allegations were “devoid of common sense”
Pentagon alleges more ‘harassment’ by Russian jets (VIDEO)

The US military has accused Russian fighter jets of “unsafe” behavior for the second day in a row, claiming they flew “dangerously close” to American Reaper drones during an operation in Syria. 

The air service component of US Central Command (CENTCOM), Air Forces Central, shared footage of the alleged run-in on Thursday, saying the Russian planes dropped flares in front of multiple MQ-9 drones and “flew dangerously close, endangering the safety of all aircraft involved.”

The brief video clip shows what appears to be a Russian fighter jet deploying flares near the unmanned craft before veering off, with Air Forces Central head Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich deeming the incident “another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces operating in Syria.”

The encounter comes less than one day after Air Forces Central levied a similar allegation at Russian pilots in Syria, also accusing them of “harassing” US drones during another mission on Wednesday. 

Moscow has rejected both claims, with the deputy head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, Rear Adm. Oleg Gurinov, saying American UAVs have repeatedly breached deconfliction protocols in Syria, noting nine violations between Wednesday and Thursday alone. He added that the targeting systems of MQ-9 drones can automatically activate the onboard defenses of Russian aircraft, which are currently taking part in major drills with the Syrian military.

Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, also responded to the latest allegations, defending the “highly professional actions of the Russian military.” He said the Pentagon violates flight safety rules in Syrian airspace “on a daily basis,” and went on to note that US forces are occupying the country illegally.

“Let’s keep in mind the fact that the US Armed Forces – unlike ours – are deployed in the [Syrian] Arab Republic contrary to international law,” he said. “In essence, they occupy specific regions, masking their actions with the necessity to carry out counter-terrorism tasks.”

Asked whether the drones could have flown into a restricted area at a briefing on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said it would be “ridiculous” to suggest “that somehow this is our fault,” insisting that Moscow was to blame.

The most recent episode follows several similar incidents in the skies over Syria in recent months, with Grynkewich telling the Wall Street Journal that there have been dozens of run-ins this year. In June, CENTCOM announced that it would respond with a new deployment of F-22 Raptors in the region, citing “increasingly unsafe and unprofessional behavior by Russian aircraft.”