The drone that the US military said was forced down over the Black Sea by a Russian fighter jet has not been recovered — and it may never be, according to John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.
“I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea, very, very deep water. We’re still assessing whether there can be any recovery effort mounted. There may not be,” Kirby told CNN.
“We did the best we could to minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone,” he added.
When pressed further, Kirby said, “I certainly can’t speak for Russian efforts or what they may or may not be trying to take off the surface of the water. I can just tell you that we’re still assessing that situation ourselves.”
One of the Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel on the unmanned drone several times, a statement from US European Command said. The aircraft then hit the propeller of the drone, prompting US forces to bring the MQ-9 drone down in international waters.
Kirby reiterated it is “not uncommon” for Russian jets to try to intercept or harass US drones.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the Russian jet had come into contact with the drone in a statement on Tuesday, saying the fighter jets “scrambled to identify the intruder” after detecting it over the Black Sea, adding that the drone “went into an unguided flight with a loss of altitude.”
Kirby said on Wednesday morning: “First of all, they don’t belong in Ukraine. Secondly, they certainly don’t belong in Crimea. And we were flying, again, well outside of the airspace that was, that’s claimed by Ukraine or any other country. The Black Sea doesn’t belong to Russia. … We’re going to continue to operate, again, in complete in accordance with international law.”