Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Friday nominated for state awards the pilots of a Su-27 fighter jet for “preventing” a US drone from “violating” international airspace restrictions put in place by Moscow.
In a statement, the ministry said that the pilots "prevented violation by the American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle of the boundaries of the area, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation."
“The drone flew with its transponders off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary airspace usage regime established for the special military operation (and) communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards,” it said.
The ministry said that it had scrambled its fighter jets after detecting the drone but denied causing its crash, saying the unmanned aerial vehicle had lost control as a result of sharp maneuvering and hit the water’s surface.
However, the Pentagon said that the Russian jet collided with the drone, bringing the unmanned aerial vehicle down in international waters.
The US European Command also claimed that the incident occurred after a Russian jet and another SU-27 "conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept" of the US MQ-9 Reaper, including dumping fuel on the drone and flying in front of it "in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner."