Moscow warned the United States on Wednesday to keep its aircraft away from Russia’s claimed airspace as the two nations traded blame over the downing of an American surveillance drone above the Black Sea.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, claimed the US drone had “deliberately and provocatively” approached Moscow’s airspace, forcing Russia to react.
“The unacceptable activity of the US military in the close proximity to our borders is a cause for concern,” Antonov said. “They gather intelligence, which is subsequently used by the Kyiv [Ukraine] regime to strike at our armed forces and territory.”
He further called on Washington to “stop making sorties near the Russian borders.”
“Let us ask a rhetorical question: if, for example, a Russian strike zone appeared near New York or San Francisco, how would the US Air Force and Navy react?” Antonov said.
The US military said it had to ditch the MQ-9 Reaper in international waters after one of two Russian Su-27 fighter jets conducting an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” struck the drone’s propeller Tuesday morning.
The incident is believed to be the first time since the Cold War that an American aircraft crashed because of an encounter with a Russian warplane.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US had done nothing wrong.
“First of all, they don’t belong in Ukraine. Secondly, they certainly don’t belong in Crimea. And we were flying, again, well outside of the airspace that was, that’s claimed by Ukraine or any other country. The Black Sea doesn’t belong to Russia,” he told CNN Wednesday.
“We’re going to continue to operate, again, in complete accordance with international law,” Kirby stressed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that relations between the US and Russia were in a “lamentable state.”
Peskov added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been briefed about the drone and referred further questions to the defense ministry.
The MQ-9 Reaper had its transponders off when it “entered the zone of the special military operation,” Antonov told the Russian news agency Tass, using the Kremlin’s euphemistic term for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“They provoked us to take a certain action, which would allow them to accuse Russia and the Russian military of being non-professional,” he said.
Antonov said that the Russian fighter jets did not fire at the US drone.
”I would like to stress that Russian pilots acted in a very professional manner. There was no contact, no use of weapons on the part of our fighter jets,” the envoy said.
US European Command said the Russian jets dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone in a “reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner.”
“I certainly don’t want to speak for the Russian pilots, but it is clear their actions were unprofessional and outside the norms of internationally accepted practices,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Garron Garn told The Post on Tuesday.
Kirby said Wednesday that the drone has not been recovered and may never be found.
“I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea [is] very, very deep water. We’re still assessing whether there can be any recovery effort mounted. There may not be,” he told CNN.
“We did the best we could to minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone.”
With Post wires