Vladimir Putin could risk an attack on a manned NATO aircraft after Russian jets downed a UFO over the Black Sea. But Russia most likely does not want to pull the US into direct conflict. The comments came as the US released a video showing the moment a Russian fighter jet collided with a MQ-9 Reaper drone, taking it down over the Black Sea and sparking a diplomatic crisis.
Russia claims it was not involved in the attack. But Mykola Volkivskyi, a former advisor to the Committee of the Ukrainian Parliament’s chairman, told Express.co.uk that Russia was “resentful” of US and European intelligence gathering activities in the region.
He said: “It was clear that the Russians would soon attempt some form of attack on targets in the Black Sea, as they have been very resentful of European and US intelligence activities in the region in recent weeks.
“Such provocations were ruled out against manned aircraft, as the risks of escalation would be very high. They not only denied their involvement in the downing of the US drone but also technically did not use military weapons to destroy the aircraft.”
In the video, Russian Su-27 jets can be seen flying at speed towards the drone and releasing jet fuel over the craft in an attempt to down it. Mr Volkivskyi said that although it is possible Vladimir Putin would attempt a similar attack on manned NATO surveillance aircraft, Russia most likely would not want to drag the US directly into the Ukraine conflict.
“We have seen footage of dangerous manoeuvres that led to the destruction of the propeller, which resulted in the loss of control of the aircraft,” Mr Volkivskyi said. “The Russians may try to risk doing something to manned NATO aircraft, but they are always escorted by fighter jets.”
He added: “Putin’s provocation is not aimed at dragging the United States into a war, but at deterring its active operations in the Black Sea.”
Russia was most likely looking for a PR win “in the absence of success on the frontline” in Ukraine and wanted “to show that the Russians are capable of harming America”, according to Mr Volkivskyi.
The video of the intercept shows two Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter planes harassing the drone in international airspace. The Reaper drone’s camera shows a jet releasing fuel over the unmanned aircraft. During a second pass the jet again releases fuel before the video feed is cut short.
Russia has disputed that its jet collided with the drone, while the US has said the Su-27 clipped the drone’s propeller, causing it to crash. An analyst told Express.co.uk that he believed the collision had been caused by pilot error although the “fuel dump” may have been meant to take down the drone.
Regardless, the US has strongly condemned the action which Washington called reckless and said showed Russian incompetence.
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“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder. He would not say if the Reaper drone was armed.
The US has also insisted it will continue to fly surveillance missions in the Black Sea region, likely to monitor the situation and provide intelligence to Ukraine on Russian build-ups or movements.
The US and Western allies have been providing Kyiv with intelligence up to and following the bloody Russian invasion launched by Vladimir Putin in February 2022.
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