Russia Aims To Recover Downed U.S. Drone
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on November 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nevada.
(Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Russian officials shared plans to salvage the remains of a U.S. military drone that crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it,” Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said during televised remarks Wednesday. “I certainly hope for success,” he added, according to the Associated Press.

Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, told a reporter that he believes Moscow has the resources for such an operation. “The way I see it, there are such technical capabilities,” he said, per Russian state-run media.

The U.S. military says one of two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducting an intercept struck a propeller of a MQ-9 surveillance drone conducting routine operations in international airspace, causing U.S. forces to bring the aircraft down in international waters. State Department spokesman Ned Price described the incident as a “brazen violation of international law.”

Russia’s defense ministry claims the drone flew toward the Russian border with its transponders turned off and was in violation of airspace restrictions set up for its “special military operation” in Ukraine, according to state-run news agency TASS.

The defense ministry also denied Russia’s fighter jets came into contact with the drone and claimed the U.S. aircraft hit the water due to “uncontrollable maneuvering.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Wednesday that recovery of the drone’s remnants may be impossible for the United States.

“I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it. Where it fell into the Black Sea — very, very deep water,” Kirby said. “We’re still assessing whether there can be any recovery effort. There may not be.”

Without going into detail, Kirby added the U.S. took steps to “minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone.”

The drone threatens to escalate an already tense situation as the U.S. and its Western allies provide military support to Ukraine in its efforts to ward off a full-scale invasion by Russian forces.

“The incident with the American MQ-9 Reaper UAV — provoked by Russia over the Black Sea — is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s way of signaling his readiness to expand the conflict to involve other parties,” said Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov, per Fox News. “The purpose of this all-in tactic is to always be raising the stakes.”

While Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. reportedly claimed he told Washington that Russia would “no longer allow anybody to violate our waters,” the Defense Department insisted the U.S. military will not be making any concessions.

“Make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, according to CNN. “And it is incumbent upon Russia to operate as military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”

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