‘Increased’ US spying on Russia led to drone incident: Moscow

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (both not pictured) at the Kremlin in Moscow on 15 March, 2023AFP

The Russian defence minister told the Pentagon chief on Wednesday that Washington’s “increased” intelligence gathering against Russia had led to a drone incident, Moscow said.

The United States on Tuesday accused Russia of forcing down one of its Reaper surveillance drones over the Black Sea through a collision with a Russian Su-27 warplane.

Russia denies that it deliberately brought the drone down.

It was the first such incident between Moscow and Washington since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin that “increased intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation” and “non-compliance with the restricted flight zone” declared by Moscow due to its campaign in Ukraine had led to the incident, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry in Moscow also warned that it would react “proportionately” to any future US “provocations”.

“Flights of American strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature, which creates pre-conditions for an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea zone,” the ministry said.

“Russia is not interested in such a development of events, but it will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations.”

Separately, the Russian military’s chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov spoke to Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the defence ministry said in a separate statement.

No details were immediately provided.