The Pentagon on Thursday released footage of the moment a Russian military jet intercepted a U.S. drone over the Black Sea earlier this week, the first direct encounter between Washington and Moscow’s militaries since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
The video, lasting less than 45 seconds, shows a Russian aircraft flying at high speed toward the U.S. drone, with a string of smoke behind it.
According to the U.S. military’s European Command, the Russian jet dumped fuel on the propeller of the drone and struck it down.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone then crashed into the Black Sea.
U.S. officials say that they are investigating the crash. Speaking to reporters during a trip to Ethiopia on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he could not speak “to the motive or to intent” at this point, adding that Washington is working with allies on the investigation.
In a news conference the same day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley urged caution ahead, saying Russia has notably launched aggressive action towards other aircrafts before the U.S. drone crash on Tuesday.
Earlier this week White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that while crashes were not uncommon, what made this incident unique were the “unsafe” and “reckless” maneuvers by the Russian pilots.
The View From Moscow
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed the crash on the U.S., saying that its drone entered a flight restriction zone designated by Russia.
According to a statement released of Shoigu’s phone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin, the defense minister said: “U.S. flights of strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature.”
The U.S. defended its decision to operate its drone in the area, saying that it took place in international airspace.