US drones have no business near Russia – ambassador
Moscow regards Tuesday’s incident in which an American drone crashed in the Black Sea as a provocation, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said after being summoned to the State Department in Washington.
Antonov met with Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, who protested the “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of the drone that resulted in its loss.
“We consider this incident a provocation,” Antonov told reporters after the meeting. He said he told Donfried that US drones, planes and ships had no business being that close to Russian borders.
“Could you imagine what the reaction of the US media or the Pentagon would be, if such a drone would appear near New York or San Francisco?” he asked.
Antonov described the talks with Donfried as “constructive” and said both sides shared their concerns. The US and Russia need to be “extremely cautious” how they act, given the current situation in Eastern Europe, he added. He also told Donfried that Moscow is seeking “pragmatic relations” and not conflict with the US.
According to the US military, two Russian Su-27 interceptors flew dangerously close to the MQ-9 Reaper on Tuesday morning, spilling fuel on the drone and at one point damaging its propeller, causing the UAV to crash. The drone, they said, was on a peaceful surveillance mission in international waters.
In response, the Russian Defense Ministry said the UAV stalled after executing drastic maneuvers, and that the interceptors “did not come into contact with the UAV.”
Antonov had pointed out that the drone was of a type that can carry multiple missiles and bombs. The MQ-9 was developed as a “hunter-killer” variant of the MQ-1 Predator.
The US has flown drones and surveillance planes near the Russian border for over a year, providing intelligence and targeting information to the Ukrainian government – along with weapons, ammunition and money – while insisting it is not a party to the conflict.
The exact location of the incident was not provided by either government. Russian media have reported that the Reaper’s last location was about 60 kilometers southwest of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.