< /p> A Russian Su-27 fighter jet approaches the rear of an MQ-9 Reaper drone and begins to dump fuel in a U.S. Department of Defense video photo on March 16, 2023.
Moscow – Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu proposed for a state award the pilots of two Russian Su-27 fighter jets who prevented the American MQ-9 Reaper drone from violating the borders of the area of ”special military operations”, as Moscow calls the invasion of its troops in Ukraine. This was announced by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The ministry initially claimed the drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday due to its own violent maneuvering, and denied a crash or the use of weapons. But the US Department of Defense released a videoon Thursday that it says shows a Russian warplane approaching a US military drone and dumping fuel near it. At the end of the video, a damaged drone propeller can be seen. According to the Americans, a Russian fighter jet collided with an American reconnaissance drone and hit its propeller.
In today's communiqué, the Russian Ministry emphasized that the fighters prevented the drone from penetrating beyond the borders of the area of the temporary regime of airspace use, established precisely because of the “special military operation”, and that all users of the international airspace were informed about the borders of this area.
According to international law, the boundaries of territorial or sovereign waters extend 12 nautical miles (about 22.2 kilometers) from the shore. There are no international norms that would allow a country to unilaterally declare an area as its exclusive airspace or maritime zone beyond recognized borders during a conflict. This issue is controversial, reports The Washington Post.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley spoke with their Russian counterparts Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday. The incident, in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine, has intensified fears of a direct conflict between Russia and the United States. According to the AP agency, this is evidenced by the fact how quickly a telephone connection was established between Washington and Moscow.
Samir Puri, a visiting lecturer in war studies at King's College London, told Al Jazeera that it was impossible to determine with certainty whether the collision between the Russian pilot and the drone was intentional or accidental. “If the Russian pilot intended to physically destroy the drone and fly so close to actually touch the drone with his own aircraft, that was an extremely risky maneuver for that pilot,” he said.
Meanwhile, social media users are asking the rhetorical question whether the Russian pilot was “such a fool”, or just ignorant. Taran – that is, the destruction of an enemy plane by the deliberate impact of one's own machine – has a tradition in the Russian air force that dates back to September 8, 1914. That was the first time such an attack was carried out by Pyotr Něsterov to destroy the Austro-Hungarian reconnaissance aircraft at the cost of their own lives. On Russian social networks, the prevailing opinion is that “pilots are guys”, “real aces” and “real defenders of the motherland” who deserve the honor. Especially if the Russian Navy manages to pick up the drone from the bottom of the sea.