Ukraine war: US and Russian military leaders in rare talks after drone downing

WASHINGTON/KYIV: Washington’s top general said the crash of a US surveillance drone after being intercepted by Russian planes showed Moscow’s increasingly aggressive behavior, while Russia warned Washington that the drone flight near Crimea risked escalation.
In the aftermath of the fall of the American drone over the Black Sea, the Ministers of Defense and the military leaders of the United States and Russia had rare phone conversations on Wednesday as relations were at their lowest level in decades following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told his American counterpart: Lloyd Austin, that the flights of American drones off the Crimea “were of a provocative nature” and could lead to “an escalation (…) in the Black Sea area”, according to a press release from the ministry. Crimea is a peninsula that was part of Ukraine until Moscow annexed it by force in 2014.
Russia, the statement added, “had no interest in such a development but will react in the future in proportion”, and the two countries should “act with maximum responsibility”, in particular by having military lines of communication in case of crisis.
Austin declined to provide details of the call – including whether he criticized the Russian interception.
But he reiterated at a press conference that the United States intends to continue flying where international law allows and requires Russian military aircraft to operate safely and professionally.
Austin appeared before reporters at the Pentagon alongside General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had a separate call with Russian Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
Trade charges
The US military said two Russian Su-27 fighter jets approached his MQ-9 Reaper Drone during a reconnaissance mission over international waters in the Black Sea on Tuesday. The fighters harassed the drone and sprayed fuel on it before one of them severed the drone’s propeller, causing it to crash into the sea.
According to Russia, there was no collision. The drone crashed after performing “sudden maneuvers”, having flown “deliberately and provocatively” near Russian airspace. Moscow had sent its fighters to identify him.
“There’s been a recent pattern of behavior where there’s a bit more aggressive action by the Russians,” Milley told reporters, saying it was unclear if the Russian pilots intended to strike. the drone.
Earlier, State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking to MSNBC, said the incident was most likely an unintentional act by Russia.
As fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian forces raged in eastern Ukraine, Tuesday’s drone incident was the first known direct encounter between the United States and Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine by Moscow about a year ago.
Russia said the episode showed that the United States was directly involved in the Ukrainian Warwhat the West has tried to avoid.
“The Americans keep saying that they are not taking part in military operations. This is the latest confirmation that they are directly taking part in these activities – in the war,” said the secretary of the Kremlin Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev.
The United States has backed Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars in military aid, but says its troops have not directly engaged in the war, which Moscow describes as a conflict against the combined might of the West. .
Kyiv, for its part, said the drone crash showed Moscow was willing to expand the conflict zone to attract other countries.
The battle of Bakhmut continues
On the ground in Ukraine, Russia continued its efforts to capture the small eastern town of Bakhmut and secure its first substantial victory in more than six months. Milley said Russia was making small advances near Bakhmut but at great cost.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his senior military brass had advised Bakhmut to be strengthened.
Kiev had last month appeared to be preparing to withdraw from the city, but has since decided to defend it, saying it was exhausting the Russian attack force there to pave the way for its own counterattack.
North of Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops in a bombed-out village near the town of Kreminna were fighting to counter what they said was Russia’s attempt to undertake a giant pincer movement.
“The Russians are trying to adapt in real time,” said a member of a drone unit by the name of “Zara”. “It gives us big problems, because we have to think a few steps ahead – how to complete the mission and not let the enemy know how we did it.”
Further south, in the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region police released a video showing the evacuation of citizens, including 9-year-old Daryna and her parrot, Lemon.
Asked by a policewoman how long it had been since she had walked in the city, Daryna replied that it had been 10 months.
“I dream that the war will end soon,” said Daryna, wearing a bulletproof vest and a bright orange helmet.


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