The U.S. military’s European Command on Thursday released a video of the recent collision between an American drone and a Russian fighter jet in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The footage shows the Russian fighter plane dumping what appears to be jet fuel atop the drone’s flight path.
On Tuesday, an MQ-9 Reaper was flying over the Black Sea when a Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted and downed the drone.
“Two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft conducting routine operations in international airspace. And one Russian jet intercepted and hit our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The footage appears to confirm earlier statements made by the secretary as well as comments from a spokesperson representing the U.S. European Command about the chain of events leading to the downing of the American drone.
“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner. This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” a spokesman for the U.S. European Command said in a statement.
“This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea,” the statement added. “These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
Russia has blamed the United States for escalating the matter and dismissed any responsibility for the incident, dispatching a recovery team to collect debris from the downed American drone.
The country accused the United States of flying the intelligence-gathering reconnaissance vehicle close to contested Russian territory captured during its invasion of Ukraine.
“U.S. flights of strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly told Defense Secretary Austin during a phone call following the incident.
However, Austin maintained that the United States was flying in international airspace and did not violate any national boundaries in the region. America will “continue to fly and operate wherever international law allows,” Secretary Austin noted during his remarks on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the White House will be investigating the matter more closely.
“We’ll be in close coordination with allies and partners at the conclusion of the investigation,” Secretary of Blinken told reporters during a trip to Ethiopia this Wednesday. “I can’t speak at this point to the motive or to intent.”