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Russia warns US of “countermeasures” against Black Sea drone flights after fighter jet intercept

Anna Chernova

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has warned the United States that Moscow would take “countermeasures” against any further drone flights over part of the Black Sea following an incident last week in which a Russian jet intercepted a US drone, state media reported Wednesday.

“We warn them against trying to play on their nerves, testing our patience,” Ryabkov said, according to state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Referring to the incident last week, he said the US drone “was in a zone where we introduced a special regime associated with conducting military exercises.”

Russia’s security would be ensured “by all means available,” he added, and “no American drones, whether reconnaissance, strike, strategic or any other kind,” could “shake their determination.”

Some background: CNN reported Tuesday that the US is flying surveillance drones further south above the Black Sea after a Russian jet collided with a US drone last week, citing two US officials.

The drone flights have remained in international airspace, but since the collision between one of the Russian jets and the MQ-9 Reaper drone last Tuesday, the US has moved its drone flights further away from airspace surrounding the Crimean peninsula and eastern portions of the Black Sea.

One of the officials said the routes are part of an effort “to avoid being too provocative,” as the Biden administration remains careful to avoid an incident that could potentially escalate into a direct conflict between US and Russian forces.

The official said the drone flights would continue this way “for the time being,” but added there is already “an appetite” to return to the routes closer to Russian-held territory. The officials also said Russia may try to unilaterally declare a broader closure of airspace around southern and eastern Ukraine in an attempt to force US drone flights further out.

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