THE Pentagon has released footage of what it says is a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a US Air Force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea. The 42-second video, released on Thursday, shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. The US military said, it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea on Tuesday after the Russian fighter jet poured fuel on the unmanned aerial vehicle, in an apparent attempt to blind its optical instruments and drive it out of the area, and then struck its propeller. The released excerpt does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley have spoken to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the US drone following the encounter with Russian fighter jets.
The calls with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday were the first since October. The incident amid the war in Ukraine has raised concerns it could bring the US and Russia closer to direct conflict. The Russian Defence Ministry said in its report of the call with Austin that Shoigu accused the US of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions the Kremlin had imposed because of its military operations in Ukraine.