The US military has released a video that it claims shows a Russian plane unsafely intercepting an American drone over the Black Sea.
During a surveillance and reconnaissance mission, the US said on Tuesday that a Russian Su-27 fighter plane attacked one of its Reaper drones, causing US operators to shoot it down in international seas. Russia denies bringing the unmanned aircraft drone down on purpose.
The Su-27 fighter plane approaches the MQ-9 drone’s back and dumps fuel nearby in the declassified 42-second video, which US officials said was an apparent attempt to blind the drone’s optical sensors.
The segment that was made public also depicts the loss of the video feed following another near-Russian manoeuvre, which the Pentagon claimed was caused by the collision of the Russian plane with the drone. The video concludes with pictures of the drone’s shattered propeller, which the Military claims was caused by the accident and rendered the aircraft unusable.
In the first direct US-Russian encounter since the start of the war in Ukraine last year, Russia has refuted US charges that its jets were flying carelessly. Instead, it has attributed the crash to the drone’s “sharp manoeuvre,” insisting that its jet did not make touch.
Samir Puri, a visiting lecturer in conflict studies at King’s College London, commented on the footage and said he didn’t think it was possible to know for sure whether the contact was purposeful or unintentional.
He told Al Jazeera that it would be a very risky manoeuvre for the Russian pilot to try to fly so close to the drone that he could potentially touch his aircraft and physically wipe it out.
Although intercept attempts are frequent, the incident that occurred amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked worries that it could push Washington, which supports Kyiv, and Moscow closer to a confrontation.
The incident was discussed with their Russian counterparts, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and head of Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov, on Wednesday by Pentagon head Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley.
In its account of the conversation with Austin Shoigu, the Russian defence ministry accused the US of inciting the incident by disobeying flight restrictions that the US had implemented as a result of its military operations in Ukraine.
The “intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation” was another reason given by Russia.
There have been times of cooperation and conflict in the United States and Russia’s relationship over the years. The two nations have been at odds more recently, with each side accusing the other of meddling in their internal affairs and acting aggressively in different parts of the world.
Syria, where the two nations back opposing factions in the ongoing civil war, is one of the main areas of contention between Russia and the United States. While Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad’s administration, the United States has been assisting rebel groups that want to topple the Syrian government.
As a consequence, there have been several direct military encounters between the two sides, and tensions are still high.
Ukraine, where Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been backing separatist rebels in the eastern portion of the nation, is another area of conflict. In reaction to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the U.S. has been giving the Ukrainian government financial and military support. It has also imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
In addition to these disputes, continuing worries about Russian meddling in democratic and electoral processes in the United States have sparked diplomatic tensions and sanctions against Russia.
Overall, the U.S.-Russian relationship is still complicated and tense, and it will probably continue to be a cause of international conflict for the foreseeable future.