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Russia reached the spot where a US MQ-9 drone crashed after colliding with a Russian Su-27 fighter within hours. But the rush to recover debris from the Black Sea was likely pointless, according to senior members of the US government. One defence official said: “They wasted no time.”

Another official told Fox News they are not expecting the Russian military to be able to collect any of the drone remains.

Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said the area where the US drone crashed is between 4,000 and 5,000 feet deep, making it particularly difficult for Russian vessels to recover any debris.

Milley suggested the remains of the drone had already sunk to “significant depths” as the White House confirmed Washington had been working to keep the Russians from “getting their hands” on the drone.

National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said: “Without getting into too much detail, what I can say is that we’ve taken steps to protect our equities with respect to that particular drone, that particular aircraft and its United States property.

“We obviously don’t want to see anybody getting their hands on it beyond us.”

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But later Kirby told CNN he could not rule out Moscow ultimately being able to recover parts of the drone.

He added: “It has not been recovered, and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea, very, very deep water.

“So we’re still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort mounted there. There may not be.”

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, argued that the drone incident was “another confirmation” of direct US involvement in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Top Kremlin officials ordered Russian jets to down US drone over Ukraine

US officials maintained the incident showed Russia’s aggressive and risky behaviour and pledged to continue their surveillance.

Russia has long voiced concern about US surveillance flights near its borders, but Tuesday’s incident signalled Moscow’s increasing readiness to raise the ante as tensions soar between the two nuclear powers.

It reflected the Kremlin’s appetite for brinkmanship that could further destabilize the situation and lead to more direct confrontations.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said the incident was part of a “pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace,” spoke to Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday for the first time in five months.

Austin said: “It’s important that great powers be models of transparency and communication, and the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly said the US and other NATO members have become direct war participants by supplying weapons and intelligence to the Kyiv government and pressuring it not to negotiate peace.

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