KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Pentagon on Thursday released footage of what it said was a Russian aircraft pouring fuel on a U.S. Air Force surveillance drone and clipping the drone's propeller in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The 42-second video shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding its optical instruments and driving it out of the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian fighter that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging one blade, according to the U.S. military.
The U.S. military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea after what it described as the Russian fighter making an unsafe intercept of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The video excerpt released by the Pentagon does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation.
Russia said its warplanes didn’t strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp maneuver over the sea.
Asked Thursday if Russia would try to recover the drone debris, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision was up to the military. “If they consider it necessary to do so in the Black Sea for the benefit of our interests and our security, they will do it,” he said.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Wednesday that Moscow would try to recover the drone fragments.
U.S. officials have expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia managed to retrieve the wreckage.
The top U.S. and Russian defense and military leaders spoke Wednesday about the destruction of the drone, underscoring the event's seriousness.
The calls between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian General Staff, were the first since October.
The MQ-9, which has a 66-foot wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, would not say whether the ditched drone had been armed.
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