Tensions between the US and Russia have risen to unprecedented levels after Washington accused Moscow of causing a collision with one of its Reaper surveillance drones, forcing it to crash into the black sea.
Russia denied it deliberately brought the unmanned aerial vehicle down. Moscow says the drone went down after stalling and never came into contact with another aircraft.
Russia says the UAV was flying towards the Russian border without an active transponder in clear violation of the restricted area established for the conduct of the special military operation.
Two Sukhoi Su-27 interceptors were dispatched to investigate. As a result of sharp maneuvers the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight, lost altitude, and crashed into the Black Sea.
The Russian fighters did not use weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV, and returned safely to their home base, according to a statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry.
However, the US has rejected the Russian explanation accusing Russian jets of an unsafe and unprofessional intercept of the drone.
US military officials claimed the spy drone was operating in international airspace when the SU 27 jets appeared, sprayed it with fuel, and struck the propeller of the UAV causing it to crash into the sea.
But there is a pattern of behavior recently where there is a little bit more aggressive actions being conducted by the Russians. We think we haven't completed our analysis as to why that's happening.
And it wasn't just involving us, there were some incidents earlier with the British and some other nations as well.
General Mark Milley, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff
The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has already reached out to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to discuss the incident. Shoigu and Austin last spoke in October 2022. The latest incident has further strained already tense relations between the two nations.
I just got off the phone with my Russian counterpart, Minister Shoigu. As I've said repeatedly, it's important that great powers be models of transparency and communication and the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.
And it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.
US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that relations with the US were in a "lamentable state" and at their lowest level. Calls are already growing loud in the US to retaliate against Russia.
Hawkish Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, has suggested opening fire on Russian fighter jets that intercept US drones, in an interview with Fox News.
They shot down our drone, what should our answer be?
Well, we should hold them accountable and say that if you ever get near another US plane flying in international waters your airplane would be shot down.
What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would, he would start shooting Russian planes down if they were threatening our assets.
Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham
Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said the senator's call to shut down Russian aircraft went far beyond common sense and risked all out war between the world's largest nuclear powers.
Since Russia started its "special military operation" in eastern Ukraine contact between American and Russian military leaders has been limited.
Meanwhile, Italy's Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has said that the drone crash represents a moment of great tension in relations between Moscow and Washington.
He also urged the West and Russia to exercise caution so that they could avoid a direct clash.
The crisis comes as war is still raging in eastern Ukraine.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has said Russian forces must be stopped in Bakhmut and other towns in the east.
Russia has said the capturing of Bakhmut opens a path to taking control of the entire Donetsk region, one of the central objectives of the war.
Wagner PMC units have practically surrounded Bakhmut. Only one road is left open to Ukrainian forces; the pincers are getting tighter. If earlier the professional Ukrainian army fought with us, today we see more and more old people and children.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Private Military Contractor, Wagner
Russian forces and fighters from the Wagner Group have captured the east of Bakhmut, but apparently failed to encircle the city.
NATO had warned last week that Bakhmut could fall within a matter of days.
Ukraine war a triple-plundering of Americans.
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