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Russia says US drone flights off Crimea ‘provocative in nature’

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu ​​​​​​​told his US counterpart Lloyd Austin on Wednesday that the flight of US drones off the coast of Crimea are “provocative in nature” and creates “preconditions for the escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area.”

“The main focus was an exchange of views on the causes and consequences of the March 14 incident involving a U.S. UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) crash in the Black Sea,” said a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry issued following a phone call between Shoygu and Austin.

Shoygu said the drone crash was caused the US actions of “non-compliance with the flight restriction zone declared by the Russian Federation” established in connection with Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation is not interested in such development, but it will continue to respond to all provocations in a proportionate manner,” the statement further said, adding that both countries must act “as responsibly as possible, including maintaining military channels of communication to discuss any crisis situations.”

Two Russian SU-27 fighter jets “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of a US MQ-9 Reaper on Tuesday, including dumping fuel on the drone and flying in front of it “in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” according to the US’ European Command.

Russia denied that its fighter jets came into contact with the drone that Washington accused Moscow of bringing down.

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, said earlier on Wednesday that the drone attempted to gather reconnaissance information to convey it to Ukraine for strikes against Russia.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that the US is trying to look for “provocations” to escalate its “confrontational approaches.”

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