Downed drone “US…direct party to fighting between Moscow and Kyiv”

Lee Heidhues 3.15.2023

News continues to come out about the American MQ-9 Reaper Drone downed in the Black Sea on Tuesday. In addition to the Moscow Times piece below today’s interview with Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill sheds more light on the subject.

Jeremy Scahill emphatically reminds viewers that Vladimir Putin is totally responsible for the continuing aggression against Ukraine. What his reporting also makes perfectly clear is that the American military consciously engages in these spy games. It is a regular part of the increasingly tense relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Excerpted from The Moscow Times 3.15.2023

Moscow said Wednesday it would try to retrieve the wreckage of a U.S. military drone that crashed over the Black Sea in a confrontation that Washington blamed on two Russian fighter jets.

The United States uses MQ-9 Reapers for both surveillance and strikes and has long operated over the Black Sea keeping an eye on Russian naval forces.

Reapers can be armed with Hellfire missiles as well as laser-guided bombs and can fly for more than 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) at altitudes of up to 15,000 meters (50,000 feet), according to the US Air Force.

Russia also warned against “hostile” U.S. flights as tensions simmered and Russia denied its Su-27 military aircraft had clipped the propeller of the unmanned Reaper drone.

Kyiv meanwhile countered that the incident over international waters was evidence the Kremlin wants to draw the United States into the conflict in Ukraine.

“I don’t know whether we’ll be able to retrieve it or not but it has to be done. And we will certainly work on it,” Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in televised remarks.

Nikolai Patrushev said the incident was further proof that the United States is a direct party to fighting between Moscow and Kyiv and said Russia had a responsibility to “defend our independence and our sovereignty.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had scrambled jets after detecting a U.S. drone over the Black Sea and denied causing the crash.

The Pentagon said the drone was on a routine mission when it was intercepted “in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”

Russia said the aircraft had lost control but White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. “obviously” refuted the denial.

He added the United States was trying to prevent the fallen drone from getting into the wrong hands.

“We’ve taken steps to protect our equities with respect to that particular drone — that particular aircraft,” Kirby told CNN.

Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has led to heightened fears of a direct confrontation between Moscow and the NATO alliance, which has been arming Kyiv to help it defend itself.

Reports of a missile strike in eastern Poland in November briefly caused alarm before Western military sources concluded it was a Ukrainian air defense missile, not a Russian one.

Several U.S. Reapers have been lost in recent years, including to hostile fire.

One was shot down in 2019 over Yemen with a surface-to-air missile fired by Huthi rebels, the U.S. Central Command said at the time.