The Pentagon on Thursday shared video of a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone that was downed in the Black Sea after Russian fighters intercepted it on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/UPI | License Photo
March 16 (UPI) -- The Pentagon on Thursday released a video taken from the MQ-9 Reaper drone that was downed in the Black Sea after Russian fighters intercepted it on Tuesday.
Officials also said Thursday they believe Russia is attempting to recover debris from the incident.
The U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany said the edited video shows a Russian Su-27 aircraft "conducting an unsafe/unprofessional intercept" of the drone, releasing fuel on the aircraft and a propeller that was damaged from the collision with the Russians.
"This declassified video has been edited for length, however, the events are depicted in sequential order," the U.S. European Command said in a statement.
U.S. officials continued to stress that the drone was operating in international airspace.
In a press briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Gen. Pat Ryder said there are indications that Russia is attempting to recover debris from the MQ-9 Reaper, though he could not confirm if any debris has been successfully recovered.
"We assess it's very unlikely that they can recover anything useful," Ryder said. "We took steps to protect information aboard that aircraft."
Ryder expanded, saying that the drone crashing in "very deep water" also makes it unlikely that any debris recovered would be useful to Russia. He said the main concern is that it is U.S. property and it is an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance asset.
Ryder reiterated statements made by Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday, observing that Russian behavior has become increasingly aggressive, which downing the U.S. drone demonstrates.
"We do know that this aggressive behavior was intentional by the part of the pilots," he said. "Whether or not they hit the drone on purpose, we don't know. It clearly demonstrates either poor airmanship or reckless behavior. Just from an airmen's standpoint, why would you hit another aircraft with your aircraft in the sky?"
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, continued to insist that Russian planes never touched the drone and criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for suggesting that the United States should shoot down Russian planes in the future.
"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," Antonov said on Telegram of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
"Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose an expensive piece of equipment. But in this case, the U.S. military should redirect accusations of unprofessional actions back to themselves."
He said attacking Russian aircraft in international airspace would essentially be a declaration of war against a 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 said. "Is the [U.S.] Capitol willing to put American citizens and the international community at risk of a full-scale nuclear war? Give us an answer, distinguished senator."
At the 10th Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon will continue to fly over the Black Sea and other regions around Ukraine in international airspace.