Video shows Russian jet spraying aviation fuel metres away from US drone

Russian and US defence secretaries held a call to discuss the incident on Wednesday

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Footage released on Thursday by the US government shows a Russian SU-27 fighter bomber soaring over a US drone, unleashing thousands of litres of aviation fuel on the $30 million MQ-9 reconnaissance aircraft and briefly blocking its camera’s connection to ground controllers.

The incident occurred shortly before one of two SU-27s bumped into the rear propeller of the drone, causing the unmanned aircraft to spin out of control and crash into the Black Sea. The footage was published online by the US European Command headquarters.

The US State Department condemned the incident as a violation of international law, insisting that the Reaper drone was in international airspace at the time of the crash.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the US, said on Thursday that the incident was "a deliberate attack on aircraft in neutral airspace is an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power."

Russia insisted no weapons were used in the incident and on Wednesday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu held a call to discuss the crash.

US officials previously said they believed the SU-27s intended to take down the drone, but that the crash was “likely” an accident as the SU-27, which also costs about $30 million, probably suffered significant damage.

A readout of the call published by the White House reiterated the US position, condemning the “unprofessional, dangerous, and reckless behaviour by the Russian air force in international airspace over the Black Sea.”

Updated: March 16, 2023, 2:20 PM