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The Kremlin today warned the United States ‘not to test Russia‘s patience’ by continuing to fly drones over the Black Sea, a week after two Russian fighter jets downed an American drone. 

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will respond with ‘countermeasures’ if Washington continues to fly surveillance drones over the international waters.

The $32 million MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed after being intercepted by two Russian fighter jets on March 14, in what US officials have said was a deliberate act to take it out the skies, possibly in an attempt to seize its data. 

At the time, Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, warned the US to stop ‘hostile’ flights near his country’s border. 

But the US remained defiant and vowed to continue their aircraft over the Black Sea, with White House national security spokesman John Kirby, saying that Russia will ‘fail’ in their attempts to ‘deter’ Washington from flying in international airspace.

And now, a furious Ryabkov warned: ‘We warn the United States against trying to play on the nerves, testing our patience.’ 

Pictured: An image from the drone shows the Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on the MQ-9 Reaper

Pictured: An image from the drone shows the Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on the MQ-9 Reaper

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will respond with 'countermeasures' if Washington continues to fly surveillance drones over the international waters

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will respond with ‘countermeasures’ if Washington continues to fly surveillance drones over the international waters

He added that the Reaper drone was ‘in a zone where we introduced a special regime associated with conducting military exercises’. 

Ryabkov warned the US not to continue down the path of escalation in Ukraine by supplying American weapons and surveillance drones to help with Kyiv’s defences against invading Russian troops.

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But he insisted Western weaponry would be no match for Russian forces and their war in Ukraine.

‘No American drones – reconnaissance, strike, strategic, whatever – can shake our determination,’ Ryabkov added.

But in a move that will add to Russia’s fury, the White House said yesterday that   Ukraine will be able to receive powerful Abrams tanks months sooner than expected under a new plan that will put an older model into action sooner.

The move, confirmed by White House national security spokesman John Kirby, comes amid reports that Ukraine will seek to begin a new push to regain territory lost to the Russian invasion even amid the hard-fought stand-off in Bakhmut.

‘The Pentagon is working as fast as they can, and I think they’ll have more to say here soon about adjustments they’re making to try to see if we can get Abrams tanks to Ukraine a little bit faster than previously expected,’ Kirby told MSNBC Tuesday. 

‘So we’re working on that. There’s some changes that you can make to process to sort of speed that up and again, I’ll let the Pentagon speak to that,’ he said. The Pentagon has scheduled a briefing for Tuesday afternoon. 

Tensions between the US and Russia reached a new low last week after Moscow accused the US of flying its Reaper drone with its transponders turned off and violating airspace restrictions that Russia had made public in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The $32million US Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia

The $32million US Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia

US MQ-9 Reaper 

Type: Surveillance drone

Remote crew: Two

Top speed: 300mph

Length: 36ft

Wing span: 66ft

Range: 1,150 miles

Cost: $32million 

Armament: AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II, and GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions

Washington has previously dismissed these claims, and said two Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper during a reconnaissance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace.

Prior to that, the Su-27s dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and flew in front of it several times for 30 to 40 minutes in ‘a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner’, the US European Command said. 

Moscow claimed it had recovered components of the US drone in the depths of the Black Sea.

Just hours after the March 14 incident, radio traffic from the Russian scramble to salvage the MQ-9 Reaper drone was captured by amateur hobbyists on unencrypted channels, according to the New York Times.

Clips of the radio traffic reveal conversations between multiple Russian ships and aircraft about attempts to recover the drone’s engine casing, nose, wing and gas tank.

‘At this moment, we have brought up three parts of the frame,’ one unit code-named Apelsin (Orange) is heard broadcasting. ‘Now I am proceeding toward the helicopter to search for more.’

Pentagon officials have said any sensitive information was remotely wiped from the drone’s software after its propeller was stuck by an Su-27 fighter jet during a close pass, and that any wreckage recovered will have little military value.

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Drone camera footage released last week by the Biden administration showed the terrifying confrontation between the two Russian fighter jets and the US drone.

The U.S. military’s declassified 42-second colour footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone’s optical instruments to drive it from the area.

On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian Su-27 that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging a blade, according to the U.S. military, which said it then ditched the aircraft in the sea.

The video excerpt does not show the collision, although it does show the damage to the propeller.

Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, accused the US of committing an ‘act of provocation’ and warned Washington it must stop ‘hostile’ flights near his country’s border – or face the consequences. 

But the US remained defiant and vowed to continue to fly their aircraft where permitted over the Black Sea. Kirby said last week that Russia will ‘fail’ in their attempts to ‘deter’ Washington from doing so. 

‘We don’t need to have some sort of check-in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace. There’s no requirement to do that nor do we do it,’ Kirby said. 

The incident, which added to Russia-US tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, is believed to be the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft has been brought down after an encounter with a Russian warplane. 

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