Russian diplomats blast US: American aircraft have no business near Russia’s borders

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Russian diplomats warned on Wednesday the US against violating Russia’s territorial waters and airspace and accused Washington of trying to spy on Moscow, in the wake of the crash of a US military drone into the Black Sea after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets.

A US military surveillance drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after an encounter with Russian Su-27 fighter jets in international airspace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the US was “ignoring” the fact that Russia had established air space restrictions in the Black Sea region after it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, who was summoned by the State Department over the drone incident, told American officials that Moscow considers the appearance of an American drone over the Black Sea a “provocation”.

He added that American military aircraft and warships have nothing to do near the borders of Russia and positted the question of what would the US reaction be if a Russian military drone appeared near its borders.

“Could you imagine what the reaction of the US media or the Pentagon would be, if a Russian strike drone appeared near New York or San Francisco?” Antonov said.

He added: “I’ve been saying the same in regard to the [US] Navy or the Air Force, who often test and seek to reveal the Russian air defense, to see where our vulnerabilities are, to test if we are ready to repel a potential attack or have some kind of weakness. I warned them against such actions, I said that we will continue to make sure that no one breaks into the waters that belong to the Russian Federation,” state news agency TASS reported.

The Pentagon said the drone in question was a US Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. It added that the drone “was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft.”

The Commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa Gen. James Hecker said: “The incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea. These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”

Moscow denies the American version of events, stressing that the drone was flying towards Russian borders and that the Russian jets which intercepted it did not come into physical contact with the drone. The defense ministry said, “the device went out of control as a result of sharp maneuvering” and then crashed.

The Russian ambassador also accused Washington of spying operations using drones, in which the US collects intelligence data which is subsequently used by Ukraine to strike at Russian forces and attack targets inside Russian territory.

Antonov added: “What are they doing thousands of kilometers from the United States? The answer is obvious: they are collecting intelligence information, which is subsequently used by the Kyiv regime to strike at our armed forces and territory.”

The Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev also said that the drone incident contradicted US official stance of maintaining no direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said Moscow was well aware of the “intelligence goals” Washington was allegedly pursuing in the Black Sea region.

On the other hand, the US maintains that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet clipped the propeller of the drone which led to the crash. It also blasted Moscow for acting in “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless” ways.

White House spokesman John Kirby said in a CNN interview: “The message that we delivered to the Russian ambassador is that they need to be more careful in flying in international airspace near US assets that are, again, flying in completely legal ways, conducting missions in support of our national security interests.”

Kirby added in an ABC interview: “The message was: Don't do this again.”

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