The Russian Defense Ministry said it had awarded the Su-27 pilot who shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone this week, causing it to crash into the Black Sea. Putin’s government made the decision despite criticism from Western officials, who called the move “unsafe and unprofessional”.
“Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented the state award to the Su-27 pilot who prevented the violation of the (Russian) temporary airspace by the American MQ-9 drone,” the ministry said.
Washington on Thursday released footage it said showed Russian military jets rushing towards the drone, but Moscow insisted the plane lost control and was shot down.
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The confrontation heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington and prompted a rare phone call between top U.S. and Russian military officials.
Moscow said it established airspace restrictions over the Black Sea as part of its military intervention in Ukraine in accordance with international norms.
On Friday, Moscow reiterated that the pilots “did not use weapons on board, did not come into contact with the drone and returned safely to their home airport.”
Moscow also reiterated that the crash of the drone was “caused by a sharp maneuver around 0930 Moscow time (0630 GMT)”.
The United States uses the MQ-9 for surveillance and strike, and has long operated over the Black Sea, keeping a close eye on the Russian Navy.
Washington said after the incident it would “continue to fly and operate where international law allows”.
(according to agency opinion)