Moment Russian jet crashes into US drone
Footage of what it described as a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a US Air Force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea has been shared by the Pentagon.
The 42-second video, released on Thursday, shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said.
Russian forces reached the site of the downed surveillance drone in the Black Sea on Wednesday, US officials told CNN, as the Kremlin vowed to recover it from deep water around 70 miles from Crimea.
And in a separate incident, a Russian aircraft was intercepted by RAF and German fighter jets near Estonian airspace in the first joint exercise between the two Nato allies.
Two British and German Typhoon jets were scrambled on Tuesday when a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control.
The UK Ministry of Defence stressed the “routine” nature of the mission, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
Video captures moment Russian fighter jet crashes into US drone
The American military said two Russian Su-27 jets intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drone in international airspace before one of them struck the aircraft’s propeller, causing US forces to have to bring it down.
Russia denied involvement, with a senior figure describing the episode as a “provocation.”
My colleague Thomas Kinsgley has this breaking story:
Emily Atkinson16 March 2023 10:38
Putin mocks Britons being offered turnips to eat as Western sanctions on Russia ‘fail’
In a speech to business leaders, Mr Putin said Western analysts had prophesied that Russia’s store shelves would empty and services collapse as a result of the sanctions.
“Life had other ideas,” he said. “The Western countries themselves ran into all the same problems. It’s got to the point where their leaders suggest that citizens switch to turnips instead of lettuce or tomatoes.”
Maroosha Muzaffar17 March 2023 04:30
UN backs call for 120 day extension of grain deal
The United Nations backed Turkey and Ukraine on Thursday by calling for a 120-day rollover of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports after Russia said it would only extend the pact for 60 days.
The pact is due to expire on Saturday. It was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey in July – and renewed in November – to combat a global food crisis that was fueled in part by Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of neighboring Ukraine and blockade of its Black Sea grain exports.
“For us, the text in the agreement is clear and it calls for a 120-day rollover,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Reuters when asked about remarks by Turkey.
Turkey said on Wednesday that it would continue talks to extend the deal for 120 days rather than 60 days. Ukraine has also said the agreement should be renewed for 120 days.
“The deal is being extended for 60 days,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday, when asked to comment on Dujarric’s remarks.
The difference in the Russian and U.N. interpretation of the duration of the deal “may simply be a display of (the U.N.’s) incompetence,” she added.
Dujarric said later that “discussions are ongoing.” Senior U.N. and Russian officials met in Geneva on Monday.
Sam Rkaina17 March 2023 04:00
One person killed in fire at Russian spy agency building 40 miles from Ukraine
One person has been killed after a building used by Russia’s Federal Security Service caught fire on Thursday in a city just 43 miles from the Ukraine border.
Citing local emergency services, Russian state media reported that two people were also injured in the fire in Rostov.
Footage posted on social media appeared to show fire engulfing parts of the building, which belonged to the regional border patrol section of the FSB, with plumes of thick smoke rising over the city.
Maroosha Muzaffar17 March 2023 03:30
Russian court upholds conscripted soldier’s right to perform alternate duties
A court in Russia’s second-biggest city St Petersburg upheld for the first time the right of a soldier conscripted during the military campaign in Ukraine to perform alternative civil service, a rights group said.
The group Voenniy Ombudsmen (Military Ombudsman) said the Leningrad Region Court ruled on Thursday that Pavel Mushumansky was entitled to perform alternative service on the grounds of his religious beliefs.
Media reports from St. Petersburg said Mushumansky was an evangelical Christian and had already done alternative service in 2019 in place of his military service.
He was called up under President Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilisation” order in September, but his request for a similar arrangement was rejected by military authorities. He was sent to a military unit.
A court outside St. Petersburg subsequently upheld his right to alternative service and Thursday’s ruling threw out an appeal launched by military officials on grounds that his right was not applicable to the special call-up.
“The ruling of the (lower court) was left in place with no changes and the appeal was rejected,” local news site fontanka.ru quoted his lawyer, Alexander Peredruk, as saying.
“There are formalities to complete linked to his discharge, but there are no grounds to keep him at the military base.”
“A precedent has been set,” Voenniy Ombudsman, which defends the rights of servicemen, said in its account of the ruling.
Officials said Putin’s mobilisation order, issued as Moscow’s military campaign ran into difficulty in Ukraine, resulted in 300,000 men being drafted.
But it also generated resistance, with protests in some areas and thousands of men leaving Russia. There have been widespread suggestions a new mobilisation order may be issued, but no plans have been announced.
Sam Rkaina17 March 2023 03:00
Main economic and diplomatic developments from Thursday
- President Vladimir Putin, meeting members of Russia’s business elite for the first time since the invasion, urged them to invest in their country to help it weather what he called the West’s “sanctions war”.
- Poland will send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in coming days, making it the first of Kyiv’s allies to provide such aircraft.
- The United Nations backed Turkey and Ukraine by calling for a 120-day rollover of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports after Russia said it would only extend the pact for 60 days.
- China said it was concerned about an escalation of the war, and hoped Moscow and Kyiv would hold peace talks.
- Beijing, which has refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion, has urged both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation leading to a comprehensive ceasefire in its 12-point paper on the “political resolution of the Ukraine crisis”.
Sam Rkaina17 March 2023 02:00
Last developments from Ukraine frontline on Thursday
- In eastern Ukraine, Kyiv’s forces continued to withstand Russian assaults on the now-ruined city of Bakhmut. Reuters reporters roughly 1 mile from the front lines could hear the constant boom of artillery and the crackle of small arms fire.
- The situation for Russian forces trying to capture the Bakhmut is “difficult” because there are no signs Kyiv is ready to order a withdrawal of its troops, the Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said.
- A U.N.-mandated investigative body said Russian forces had committed wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine such as wilful killings and torture. Russia dismissed the report.
- Convicts who fought for private militia Wagner described the horrors of the Ukraine war and their loyalty to their leader.
Sam Rkaina17 March 2023 01:00
Latest on US drone incident
- In a 40-second video, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet comes very close to the drone and dumps what U.S. officials say was jet fuel near it in an apparent effort to damage the American aircraft as it flew over the Black Sea.
- It also shows the loss of the video feed after a second pass by a Russian jet.
- Russia has denied any collision took place and said the drone crashed after making “sharp manoeuvres”, having “provocatively” flown close to Russian air space near Crimea.
- The White House said the footage showed Russia was lying about what happened. “It’s pretty darn obvious when you look at that video that fighter jet hit our drone,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said.
Sam Rkaina17 March 2023 00:05
US ‘confident nothing of value is in the wreckage’
Vladimir Putin argues that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the U.S. and its allies have effectively become engaged in the war, now in its 13th month.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Wednesday that an attempt would be made to recover the drone debris.
U.S. officials have expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia retrieved the wreckage.
They left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32 million aircraft, which they said crashed into waters that were 4,000 to 5,000 feet (1,200 to 1,500 meters) deep, although the U.S. does not have any ships in the area.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other’s warplanes, but Tuesday’s incident marked the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft went down during such a confrontation, raising concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to a direct conflict.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed.
The top U.S. and Russian defense and military leaders spoke Wednesday about the destruction of the drone, underscoring the event’s seriousness.
The calls between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as well as between Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian General Staff, were the first since October.
Sam Rkaina16 March 2023 23:00
US strike more diplomatic tone over drone incident
The Biden administration released video Thursday of a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a U.S. Air Force surveillance drone as the U.S. sought to hold Russia responsible for the collision that led to the drone’s crash into the Black Sea without escalating already fraught tensions with the Kremlin.
Poland, meanwhile, said it’s giving Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
The U.S. military’s declassified 42-second color footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone’s optical instruments to drive it from the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian Su-27 that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging a blade, according to the U.S. military, which said it then ditched the aircraft in the sea.
The video excerpt does not show the collision, although it does show the damage to the propeller.
Russia said its fighters didn’t strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp maneuver.
While calling out Russia for “reckless” action, the White House tried to strike a balance to avoid exacerbating tensions. U.S. officials said they have not been able to determine whether the Russian pilot intentionally struck the American drone and stressed that lines of communication with Moscow remain open.
“I can’t point to that video and say this is a deliberate attempt to escalate or … tangibly bring about Putin’s false claim that this is about the West versus Russia.,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “We have made clear on many occasions, we do not seek a conflict with Russia.”
Sam Rkaina16 March 2023 22:00