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Droning On

Russian fighter jets crash into American drone, U.S. says

A Russian warplane struck an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials said. Russia's actions forced the United States to bring down the drone. 

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the move "a blatant violation of international law" in a statement obtained by The Associated Press. Price added that the U.S. summoned the Russian ambassador in protest and that the U.S. ambassador to Russia was similarly angry in Moscow. 

White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said that President Biden had been briefed on the incident. 

While the details are not all clear yet, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said that the incident occurred when "two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft." EUCOM added that the Russian aircraft struck the propeller of the drone, and also "dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner."

The American drone had been "conducting routine operations in international airspace" when it was attacked, EUCOM said. The damaged drone was then taken down by the U.S. over international waters. 

However, this account of the events was disputed by Russian officials. In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that it had detected the drone flying over the Black Sea near the Russian border, per NBC News. The ministry said the Russian planes never fired weapons, "did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield."

Russian officials claimed that they had intercepted the drone because it was flying with its transponders off, which the ministry said was a violation of international law. Neither the United States nor Russia has yet been able to recover the downed drone.