WASHINGTON, March 16. /TASS/. A deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace would be an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power, Moscow is not seeking confrontation, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday.
"Some lawmakers’ calls go far beyond common sense," he said, commenting on US Senator Lindsey Graham’s (from South Carolina) threats to shoot down Russian planes approaching US aircraft in international airspace.
"The Russian Ministry of Defense has explained in detail the reasons and course of actions of Russian pilots during yesterday’s incident over the Black Sea. I repeat, for those who have not gathered themselves to look at the situation objectively: our fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV," he said, commenting on the loss of a MQ-9 American drone. "Russia did everything possible to prevent this kind of incident - it informed the international community in good time about the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation."
"Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose expensive piece of equipment. But in this case, the US military should redirect accusations of unprofessional actions back to themselves," he noted.
"As for the aforementioned senator, this is by no means the first attempt by the notorious lawmaker to provoke a dangerous escalation in the US-Russian relations. A year ago he urged our citizens to make an assassination attempt on the president of Russia. Does Senator Graham really believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of the voters who entrusted him with their lives and livelihood?" the Russian ambassador noted.
"A deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace is not just a crime under international law, but an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power. An armed conflict between Russia and the United States would be radically different from the proxy war the Americans are waging remotely against us in Ukraine," Antonov warned. "Is the Capitol willing to put American citizens and the international community at risk of a full-scale nuclear war? Give us an answer, distinguished Senator!"
"It is not the Russian pilots who should be called out, but American politicians who are inciting the start of an apocalyptic conflict. We do not seek a conflict with a nuclear power. We continue to maintain contacts, including through the Defense Ministry, to prevent unintentional incidents. I wish US politicians had the same attitude toward relations with Russia," the Russian diplomat stressed.
According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, Russian airspace control systems detected an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle flying near the Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday. The drone flew with its transponders turned off, violating a temporary boundary established for the special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace, and published in accordance with international standards.
Russia’s top brass added that as a result of sharp maneuvering, the drone went into uncontrolled flight before losing altitude and crashing into the Black Sea. The ministry stressed that Russian fighter jets had not used on-board weapons, nor had they come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield.
According to the US European Command, one of the two Russian Su-27 warplanes hit the drone’s propeller to make it crash into the Black Sea.
MQ-9 Reaper is a modular reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicle engineered by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It is equipped with a turboprop engine and can develop a speed of more than 400 kilometer per hour. The maximal flight duration is 24 hours. The drone is capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, and laser-guided bombs.