Russia said on Wednesday it did not want a confrontation with the United States after a U.S. drone crashed while intercepted by two Russian fighter jets, while Washington said the message had failed and that it would continue its air operations over the Black Sea.
Washington and Moscow have given different accounts of the downing of the MQ-9 drone, accusing each other of causing it.
The US military spoke of what it described as a "reckless" interception operation carried out by two Russian Sukhoi-27 aircraft, noting that one of the planes hit the drone's propeller, causing it to fall.
On the other hand, Moscow considered what happened an American "provocation" and denied that its air force was the reason behind the fall of the American drone.
The incident, the "first direct confrontation" between the two countries since Russia's war on Ukraine began a year ago, has added further strain to relations that are at an all-time low, according to Russian and U.S. officials.
Antonov called on Washington to stop what he described as hostile overflights near the Russian border (Reuters)
Moscow: We do not want confrontation
In a statement on Wednesday, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said the U.S. drones were collecting intelligence data used by Kiev to strike Russian troops and territory.
Antonov said the United States should stop what he described as hostile overflights near the Russian border, and said it was important to keep lines of communication open with Washington.
Shortly after being summoned by the US State Department on Tuesday to deliver a letter of protest over the incident, the Russian ambassador to Washington said that his country does not want a confrontation with the United States, and prefers not to create a situation in which clashes or unintended incidents could occur between the two countries.
Antonov wondered: What would the United States be doing if Russian marches approached New York or San Francisco?
The Russian diplomat said that his country reported the area where the collision occurred as a special military operations area and warned against entering it, noting that he exchanged views with Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, who conveyed her country's concerns.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it had spotted a U.S. drone near Crimea heading toward the Russian border and was shutting down its identification system.
The ministry added – in a statement – that its fighter jets did not use their ammunition and did not communicate with the American drone, noting that the drone fell into the water due to the sharp maneuver without being exposed.
Two Russian Sukhoi-27s fly over the Russian city of St. Petersburg (European-Archive)
Continuation of air operations
In parallel with the summoning of the Russian ambassador to Washington to protest the incident, the US National Security Council's strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said that the United States would continue to operate in the Black Sea in accordance with international laws.
Kirby added that if Russia wanted to send a message to Washington not to fly over the Black Sea, "that message failed."
The US official also said that steps were taken to ensure that the wreckage of the drone did not fall into the wrong hands, adding that the US drone was in the international field over international waters and did not pose any threat to anyone, noting that Russian aircraft intercepting foreign aircraft over the Black Sea is common.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said the drone was conducting a reconnaissance mission over international waters when it was intercepted by two Russian Sukhoi fighter jets in an unprofessional and dangerous manner, he said.
Ryder added that one of the two fighter jets collided with the drone, forcing US forces to shoot it down, and explained that this type of drone is equipped to carry weapons, but did not confirm whether the downed drone carried ammunition or not. The Pentagon spokesman only confirmed that it was a reconnaissance aircraft without disclosing its mission.
Also in Washington, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the crash of the U.S. march another "reckless act" by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Schumer told the Senate that what he called Russia's aggressive actions could lead to an unintended escalation.
In other reactions, Reuters quoted British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as saying that Russia should respect international airspace.
A SENIOR DIPLOMAT IN EASTERN EUROPE SAID THE DOWNING OF THE U.S. MARCH WAS AN INDICATION OF WHAT HE DESCRIBED AS AGGRESSIVE RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR.