The Pentagon has released the first footage from the surveillance drone that crashed over the Black Sea, showing a Russian fighter jet passing close to the unmanned aircraft and dumping fuel on it.
The 42-second colour video clip was released amid an ongoing dispute over what took place in the Tuesday incident, which further raised tensions between Washington and Moscow against the backdrop of war in Ukraine.
The video shows a fighter jet making high-speed passes, both times spraying fuel on the drone.
During the second approach, the US military said the fighter jet collided with the drone, though that cannot be seen on the video. The impact took the American drone’s camera feed down for about 60 seconds. When the video is restored, one of the drone’s propellers appears damaged.
Russia has denied downing the drone, saying it lost control “as a result of a sharp manoeuvre” and crashed into the sea without Russian involvement.
The incident prompted a rare phone call on Wednesday between US defence secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. The US chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley, also spoke with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov to raise concerns about the episode.
The US State Department summoned the Russian ambassador to the US to denounce the incident, which the Biden administration has described as “unsafe”, “unprofessional” and “reckless”.
The US military said the video was edited for length but showed the events in sequential order. Military officials have said two Russian fighter jets flew near the MQ-9 for about 30 to 40 minutes before one of the jets collided with it and caused it to crash.
Russia’s defence ministry said late on Wednesday that Shoigu told Austin the incident took place because the US violated Russia’s flight restriction zone off the coast of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
He described drone flights as “provocative” and creating “prerequisites for escalation”. Russia, he said, was not interested in escalation, but would continue to “respond proportionately to all provocations”.
Ukrainian national security chief Oleksiy Danilov said the incident signalled Kremlin’s “readiness to expand the conflict zone”.
Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Berlin