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Friday, March 31, 2023

Putin honors pilots who shot down US drone as ‘heroes’

The pilots of two Russian fighter jets involved in shooting down an American MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday were honored by their country.

The United States said two Russian Su-27s dumped fuel over the drone in a “reckless and unprofessional manner” before one of the planes physically touched them, after which the drone “became unflyable and uncontrollable, so we shot it down.” “

In a statement announcing the awards, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the pilots “prevented” the violation of a military exclusion zone established by Moscow, although they also insisted they “did not come into contact with the US drones” or used their weapons.

news week asked the ministry for an opinion.

The Russian statement said the awards were presented by Sergei Shoigu, the country’s defense minister and a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It said the US drone violated the borders of an area set up by Moscow “to conduct a special military operation,” the official Russian description for the invasion of Ukraine.

It continues: “In order to identify the intruder, duty fighters of the air defense forces were lifted into the air. [The] MQ-9 went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface. Russian fighters did not use air forces, did not come into contact with an unmanned aerial vehicle and safely returned to their home base.”

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, said news week that it is “a shame” that America lost its drone.

He added: “I repeat for those who did not gather to look at the situation objectively: our fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV. Russia did everything possible to prevent this kind of incident – it informed the international community in time about the limits of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation.”

On Thursday, the US European Command released footage that appears to show a Russian Su-27 dripping liquid over the American drone, prompting the camera to shut down just before the alleged collision.

An accompanying statement said: “Two Russian Su-27 aircraft took part on April 14.

“Russian Su-27s dumped fuel on the MQ-9’s propeller and hit it, resulting in US forces having to down the MQ-9 in international waters.”

Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council, told state media that Russian authorities hope to recover the drone.

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