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Russia to award pilots concerned in US drone incident

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MOSCOW — Russian fighter pilots concerned in an incident with a U.S. drone that resulted in its crash shall be given state awards, the Protection Ministry introduced Friday. The transfer seems to sign Moscow’s intention to undertake a extra aggressive stance towards future U.S. surveillance flights.

The U.S. army mentioned it ditched the Air Pressure MQ-9 Reaper within the Black Sea on Tuesday after a pair of Russian fighter jets dumped gasoline on the surveillance drone after which considered one of them struck its propeller whereas it was flying in worldwide airspace. Moscow has denied that its warplanes hit the drone, alleging that it crashed whereas making a pointy maneuver. It mentioned that its warplanes reacted to a violation of a no-flight zone Russia has established within the space close to Crimea amid the combating in Ukraine.

On Friday, Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu lauded the pilots for stopping the drone from flying into the world that Moscow has banned for flights. The Protection Ministry mentioned the ban was “in keeping with worldwide norms.”

Moscow’s announcement comes a day after the U.S. army launched a declassified 42-second coloration footage displaying a Russian Su-27 fighter jet approaching the again of the U.S. drone and releasing gasoline because it passes in what seemed to be aimed toward blinding the drone’s optical devices to drive it from the world.

On a second strategy, both the identical jet or one other Russian Su-27 that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging a blade, based on the U.S. army, which mentioned it then ditched the plane within the sea. The video excerpt doesn’t present the collision, though it does present the harm to the propeller.

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The highest U.S. and Russian protection and army leaders spoke Wednesday concerning the destruction of the drone, underscoring the occasion’s seriousness. The calls between U.S. Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Employees Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Russian Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian Normal Employees, had been the primary since October.

Whereas calling out Russia for “reckless” motion, the White Home additionally tried to keep away from exacerbating tensions. U.S. officers emphasised that they haven’t been in a position to decide whether or not the Russian pilot deliberately struck the American drone and burdened that strains of communication with Moscow stay open.

Russian officers additionally emphasised the necessity to preserve strains of communication, however they harshly denounced the U.S. motion as boastful disregard of Moscow’s no-flight zone.

“This can be a clear signal that Russia will maintain downing the American drones,” pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov wrote in a commentary on the award announcement. “This choice will obtain a robust help from the Russian society that wishes the federal government to toughen its coverage.”

Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights near Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 amid sturdy worldwide condemnation. The Kremlin has charged the U.S. and its allies of successfully turning into engaged within the battle by offering weapons and sharing intelligence with Kyiv.

Some Russian officers charged that the U.S. surveillance flights helped collect intelligence that allowed Ukraine to strike Russian targets.

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