Black Sea Drone: More Crashes ‘Inevitable’ As Long As Russia Controls Crimea, Ukraine Minister Says
Ukrainian officials warned Wednesday more incidents in international airspace over the Black Sea will be “inevitable” as long as Russia controls Crimea, one day after a Russian fighter jet clipped the propeller of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea, forcing it to crash—though U.S. officials pledge to keep flying surveillance drones as tensions between Moscow and Washington worsen.
Speaking to the BBC Wednesday morning, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned the Black Sea “will not be a safe place” as long as Russia controls the Crimean peninsula, which it illegally annexed in 2014, eight years before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. European Command has condemned the incident—which took place early Tuesday morning—as “reckless,” “dangerous” and a show of Russia’s “lack of competence,” claiming two Russian jets also dumped fuel on the drone and flew directly in front of it—Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed the crash was a result of the drone’s “sharp maneuvering” and that its jets did not collide into it. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday the drone, which crashed in the Black Sea as a result of the incident, may not be recovered, telling CNN it now lies in “very, very deep water” and that officials are assessing whether a recovery effort is feasible.
Despite U.S. officials continuing to supply Ukraine with humanitarian and military support, including advanced weapons like high-power Abrams tanks and artillery rocket systems, the U.S. and other Western allies have maintained they will avoid direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO countries. In a meeting with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group Wednesday, however, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday’s incident over the Black Sea would not deter the U.S. from flying surveillance drones in international airspace—the MQ-9 Reaper drone that crashed Tuesday had been flying in international airspace over the Black Sea. Austin also argued the collision was part of a “pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace.”
“The only way to prevent such incidents is actually to kick Russia out of Crimea,” Kuleba told the BBC.
Ukraine’s officials have also warned in recent months that Russia is planning a spring offensive, after Russian forces were forced to retreat from regions in eastern and southern Ukraine last fall. Russian forces have since attacked not only strategic port cities on the Black Sea and in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, striking residential areas and key infrastructure. U.S. officials, meanwhile, have accused Russian forces of committing crimes against humanity. Vice President Kamala Harris claimed in a Security Council meeting last month that Russian forces’ killing of civilians in the Black Sea city of Mariupol, as well as the deportation of children and “gruesome acts” on civilians, made up a “widespread and systemic” attack on civilians.
Russian Jet Crashes Into U.S. Drone Over Black Sea, U.S. Military Says (Forbes)