Russia sets sights on retrieving US drone after Black Sea crash

Moscow, Russia - Russia wants to find and recover the US drone that crashed in the Black Sea after an incident involving a Russian fighter jet, but Washington says the unmanned aerial vehicle would offer little intelligence value to Moscow.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (r) said the incident with the crashed US drone showed a "pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots."
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (r) said the incident with the crashed US drone showed a "pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots."  © Collage: SERGEY FADEICHEV / SPUTNIK / AFP / ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

"I don't know if we will succeed. But it has to be done. Of course, I hope for success," the secretary of the National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, told Russian state television on Wednesday.

While the US would always stress that it was not a party to the war in Ukraine, the case showed its involvement in the fighting, he said. "This is another confirmation that they are directly involved in these actions, in the war," Patrushev said.

According to Washington, an unmanned US drone collided with a Russian fighter jet in international airspace over the Black Sea on Tuesday. US forces had to bring the drone down after the collision, the military said, blaming the Russian jet for clipping the drone's propeller.

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"This hazardous episode is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace," US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday.

"It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner," Austin continued. The US would continue to fly and operate where international law permitted, he said.

Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, about the Black Sea incident on Wednesday, in a rare telephone call between the two men.

The Black Sea borders both Russia and Ukraine. Moscow's ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, called the incident a "provocation," saying the crashed US drone was operating thousands of miles away from home near the Russian border.

Russia denies physical contact with crashed US drone

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (l) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley spoke about the US drone incident in the Black Sea during a press conference on March 15.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (l) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley spoke about the US drone incident in the Black Sea during a press conference on March 15.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The drone was collecting data for the Ukrainian armed forces in order to carry out strikes against Russia, which is an "impermissible activity," Antonov said.

Russia denies that there was any physical contact, claiming instead that the drone collided with the surface of the water after a sharp evasive maneuver.

Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley said the crashed drone was probably mostly broken up and no longer of any value, even if Russia were to recover pieces of it.

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With regard to the information collected by the drone, the US had taken standard "mitigating measures" to limit any information that could be collected.

Milley said it was still unknown if Russian forces intended to hit the drone or whether it was an accident.

Cover photo: Collage: SERGEY FADEICHEV / SPUTNIK / AFP / ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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