Russian defence minister decorates pilots for downing US drone
LONDON: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has presented awards to the pilots of two Su-27 fighter planes that intercepted a US drone near the airspace around Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, his ministry said on Friday (Mar 17).
The drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian jets, in the first known direct military encounter between Russia and the United States since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago.
Announcing the awards, the ministry repeated Russia’s version of events – disputed by Washington – that the Russian planes did not make physical contact with the drone.
“As a result of sharp manoeuvring around 9.30am (Moscow time), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface,” it said.
It said the drone had been flying with its transponders turned off and violating airspace restrictions that Russia had made public in connection with what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.