The US plans to keep its aircraft further away from Russian territory in the Black Sea, CNN reported on Tuesday. The decision comes after a Russian fighter jet collided with a Reaper drone, causing the American aircraft to plunge into the water.
An unnamed official speaking with CNN said the US would keep its UAVs away from Russian territory temporarily “to avoid being too provocative,” noting that drone flights would continue that way “for the time being” despite the Pentagon’s “appetite” to return to the previous routes.
The decision to keep American drones further south in the Black Sea came after a Russian Su-27 fighter jet hit a MQ-9 Reaper drone earlier this month, causing it to crash. The Pentagon claimed the drone was abiding by international law and was not in Russian airspace, while Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asserted that Washington would continue to fly drones “wherever” international law allows.
While US officials have slammed Moscow for the ”unprofessional” maneuver, the Kremlin claims the incident was caused by “the actions of the United States on non-compliance with the restricted flight zone declared by the Russian Federation.” After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, it expanded a perimeter around Crimea which it considers off-limits to aircraft.
The Department of Defense claims it will continue to fly drones in the Black Sea, with Pentagon Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder saying the US would operate the craft in “international airspace” and ”in accordance with international law.”
Ryder added that he could not comment on exactly where the drones were flying, declining to discuss ”the specifics of routes, missions [and] timelines“ due to “operational security reasons.“