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Russian Military Warns Against US Black Sea Drone Flights, Threatens Response Coming

A Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumps fuel on a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. (DVIDS)
June 28, 2024

The Russian military has threatened to take countermeasures to stop U.S. drone flights over the Black Sea that may be funneling intelligence and targeting support back to Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Defense, in a June 28 press statement, noted a recent uptick in U.S. military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operating over the Black Sea. The Russian military assessed these drones are “conducting reconnaissance and targeting high-precision weapons supplied to the Armed Forces of Ukraine by Western states to launch strikes at Russian facilities.”

Whatever the extent to which U.S. military drones indeed are providing reconnaissance and targeting support for Ukraine, the alleged uptick in drone activity comes as Ukrainian forces have launch strikes targeting Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and its facilities on the Crimean Peninsula. The alleged drone activity also comes as President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s other backers have increasingly encouraged Ukrainian forces to use donated weapons to strike inside Russia’s borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously argued certain longer-range weapons supplied to Ukraine require targeting support, and that use of these weapons on Russian territory could make Ukraine’s backers belligerent parties in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Russian defense ministry said this apparent uptick in U.S. drone activity does indeed demonstrate “the increasing involvement of the United States and NATO countries in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kiev regime.”

“Such flights increase the possibility of air incidents involving the Russian Aerospace Forces’ aircraft, increasing the risk of a direct confrontation between the alliance and the Russian Federation,” the Russian defense ministry added. “The NATO countries will be responsible for this.”

The Russian defense ministry concluded its statement noting Defense Minister Andrei Belousov has instructed the Russian military to “make proposals on measures for rapid response to provocations.”

The statement did not specify which Russian countermeasures may be on the table to dissuade the U.S. drone flights in the Black Sea region. That said, Russian fighter aircraft have previously harried U.S. drone operations over the Black Sea.

On March 14, 2023, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet operating over the Black Sea flew close to a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone; an aircraft capable of both reconnaissance missions and armed strikes. The U.S. Department of Defense reported the Russian fighter jet dumped some of its fuel on the Reaper, and flew in front of the drone in a “reckless manner.” The U.S. military reported the Russian fighter jet eventually clipped their drone, causing it to crash into the Black Sea.

U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker said at the time that the Russian actions were dangerous and could have led to an “unintended escalation.” The Russian military, by contrast, denied the two aircraft touched, but credited their pilot with preventing the U.S. drone from “violating Russia’s temporary airspace.”

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.