Mar 17, 2023, 10:34am EDT

Russia awards pilots involved in US drone crash over the Black Sea

Courtesy of U.S. European Command/The Pentagon

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The News

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu on Friday presented awards to the pilots in charge of the two Su-27 fighter planes that were involved in the incident resulting in a U.S. drone crashing into the Black Sea.

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The Pentagon said that two Russian jets which were flying “recklessly” collided with the American MQ-9 drone earlier this week and resulted in the drone’s “complete loss,” in the first direct military encounter between Washington and Moscow since the start of the war.

On Telegram, the Russian ministry of defense claimed that its pilots prevented the MQ-9 drone from “violating the borders of the region” –– an argument that Washington disputes, saying that the U.S. drone was flying in international airspace.

“U.S. flights of strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature,” Shoigu reportedly said during an earlier conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, according to the Kremlin.

The U.S. military’s European Command released a video of the incident on Thursday, showing the Russian aircraft flying at high speed toward the U.S. drone. The U.S. said that the jets flew around the drone in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” before dumping fuel and striking the drone’s propeller.

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Step Back

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.