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A top Russian official claimed on Wednesday that the U.S. was “directly involved” in fighting the war in Ukraine after Russian pilots initiated a provocation against a U.S. drone operating over international waters this week that led to a collision and destruction of the drone.
“The Americans keep saying that they are not participating in hostilities,” said Nikolai Patrushev, Russian Security Council Secretary and the former chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). “This is yet another confirmation that they are directly involved in these events, in the war.”
Patrushev said that Russian officials were going to try to recover the drone out of the Black Sea after a Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of the $32 million unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drone, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.
The statement from the U.S. European Command said that multiple times before the incident occurred that both of the Russian Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless manner that was environmentally unsound and demonstrated a “lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added.
The statement said that the incident followed a “pattern of dangerous actions” by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace that could “lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
“U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa routinely fly aircraft throughout Europe over sovereign territory and throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws,” the statement added. “In order to bolster collective European defense and security, these missions support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.”
General Mark Milley said Wednesday that the U.S. does not consider the incident an act of war. “Incidents happen,” Milley said. “And clearly we do not seek armed conflict with Russia and I believe at this point we should investigate this incident and move on from there.”