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U.S. Tells Russia It Will Fly “Wherever International Law Allows” After Downing of Drone

HeadlineMar 16, 2023

The Pentagon has released video of what it says is a Russian fighter jet forcing down a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday. The 42-second video shows an Su-27 Russian fighter jet pouring fuel on an MQ-9 Reaper drone and making a pair of close passes; after the second fly-by, the video glitches, before revealing damage to the drone’s propeller. The U.S. says a collision caused the drone to crash into international waters south of the Russian-annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea. On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he called his Russian counterpart to discuss the incident.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: “So make no mistake: The United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly told Austin that U.S. drone flights near Crimea were provocative and could lead to an escalation between Russian and U.S. forces. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia had designated parts of the Black Sea off-limits to any aerial traffic during Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

Sergey Lavrov: “You have heard representatives of the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that the United States will continue to fly wherever it pleases in accordance with international law. But if you follow this logic, then the space around the United States has the same status as the space over the Black Sea.”

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