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The Pentagon announced this week that it intends to continue patrolling international territory despite Moscow putting the U.S. on notice after an incident last week in which an American MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted and then subsequently crashed into the Black Sea. The Kremlin has announced that it has closed some of the airspace over the Black Sea as part of a ‘special operation’ taking place in Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued a new warning indicating that Moscow will take “countermeasures” against any U.S. or NATO drone flights over the area of the Black Sea where the previous drone interception incident occurred.
Ryabkov cautioned, “We warn them against trying to play on their nerves, testing our patience.” According to Ryabkov, the U.S. drone “was in a zone where we introduced a special regime associated with conducting military exercises.”
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He went on to reiterate that Russia would protect its security and sovereignty “by all means available” and that “no American drones, whether reconnaissance, strike, strategic, or any other kind,” will “shake their determination.”
While U.S. drone flights have remained in international airspace, the Pentagon has shifted the flight paths further away from Crimea after last Tuesday’s drone collision with a Russian jet over concerns that another such incident could lead to a direct conflict with Russia. According to one U.S. official, the drone flight paths were altered “to avoid being too provocative” with Moscow.
The official did note that while the drone paths will remain further away from the Crimean Peninsula “for the time being,” there is already “an appetite” to move the flight paths closer to Crimea.
Russian forces are reportedly working to recover the U.S. drone that crashed into deep waters in the Black Sea last week.
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