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

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu has told his US counterpart Lloyd Austin 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 US UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] crash in the Black Sea,” said a statement by the Russian Defence 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.

“Russia is not interested in such a development of events, but it will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations.”

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1945 GMT — Canada to send ammunition, missiles to support Ukraine

Canada will send about 8,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and a dozen air defence missiles as part of Ottawa’s latest military aide to Kiev, the Canadian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Canada will also provide Ukraine with more than 1,800 rounds of training ammunition for Leopard 1 battle tanks donated by Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, one of Ukraine’s most vocal international supporters, has committed over $730 million in military aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive last year.

Canada has already announced it is donating eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which are expected to be in Ukraine in the coming weeks, the ministry said.

1431 GMT — No conflict between Russia and US: Kremlin 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no contacts between Russia and the US at the highest level following Tuesday’s incident involving a US drone in the Black Sea. 

Commenting at a press briefing in Moscow on Pentagon’s accusations of Russia’s “unsafe interception” of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, Peskov said each country “will defend its interests.” 

Peskov called “strange” a question asking whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the incident. 

“Do you imagine that the head of state, the supreme commander-in-chief, has not been informed about the incident? Of course, this is impossible, of course, he was briefed,” he said. 

1425 GMT — US drone wreckage has to be retrieved: Russian official 

Moscow will work to retrieve the wreckage of an American drone that crashed over the Black Sea after Washington said it collided with a Russian fighter jet, a top official said. 

“I don’t know whether we’ll be able to retrieve it or not but it has to be done. And we will certainly work on it,” Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in televised remarks. 

“I am hoping for success of course.” 

The head of Russia’s SVR intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, said the country has “technical” capabilities to retrieve the drone. 

1229 GMT — Denmark sets up $1B fund to aid Ukraine 

The Danish government has announced to set up of a relief fund of 7 billion Danish crowns ($1.01 billion) to assist Ukraine with its military, civil and business needs for this year, Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told reporters in a press conference. 

The Ukraine fund, established with the support of parliamentary parties, will give 5.4 billion crowns for military aid, 1.2 billion crowns toward civilian aid and 0.4 billion crowns for business initiatives. 

The Ukraine fund was endorsed by 159 of 179 members of Parliament – and opposed by the parliamentary parties: Unity List and Alternatives.

0709 GMT — Russia calls on US to halt ‘hostile’ flights after collision

Russia’s ambassador to the United States has called on Washington to stop “hostile” flights near his country’s border, after an American drone was intercepted by Russian fighters over the Black Sea.

“We assume that the United States will refrain from further speculation in the media and stop flights near Russian borders,” ambassador Anatoly Antonov wrote on Telegram. “We consider any action with the use of US weaponry as openly hostile.”

A Russian fighter jet on Tuesday dumped fuel on an American drone over the Black Sea and then collided with it, causing the drone to crash, the US military said, slamming the manoeuvre as “reckless”. 

0700 GMT — German arms industry seeks clarity on Ukraine weapons orders

Germany’s defence industry has said it stands ready to ramp up its output, including the kinds of arms and ammunition needed by Ukraine, but needs clarity about what governments want before investing in further production capacity.

Ukraine became the world’s third largest importer of arms in 2022 after Russia’s attack triggered a big flow of military aid to Kiev from the United States and Europe, according to Swedish think tank SIPRI.

Some of those arms were transferred from Western military stocks to Ukraine, while in other cases Kiev has purchased equipment with its own money or funds provided by allies.

0400 GMT — West’s comments on Russia’s grain deal position ‘distortion of facts’: official

“Without concrete progress in solving these systemic problems, all the Westerners’ oaths about humanitarian exemptions from their sanctions, assurances of commitment to global food security and expressions of support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General are nothing more than deliberate cunning and outright lies,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

Zakharova said Western reactions, notably from Washington and the European Union delegation in Moscow, in connection with the announcement of Russia’s position on the extension of the Türkiye-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative are “striking in hypocrisy, unprofessionalism, and a complete distortion of real facts.”

0200 GMT — US says Russian jet caused its drone to crash over Black Sea

A US military MQ-9 Reaper armed drone crashed into the Black Sea. The Pentagon said that one of the Russian Su-27 jets struck the propeller of the drone, making it inoperable.

Russia’s defence ministry blamed “sharp manoeuvring” by the drone for the crash and said that its jets did not make contact.

Russia views the drone incident as provocation, the RIA state news agency cited Russia’s ambassador to the United States as saying.

0114 GMT — British defence minister Wallace says Russia should respect international airspace

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that Moscow should respect international airspace, after Russia downed a US drone.

He was speaking to Reuters at a defence exhibit in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo. 

2230 GMT — New Russian law to strip citizenship for discrediting Ukraine operation

Proposed amendments to Russia’s citizenship law would allow for the stripping of acquired citizenship for treason and discrediting the military campaign in Ukraine, Russian media has reported.

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation,” while Ukraine and its allies say that is a euphemism for a full blown aggression to grab land.

The proposed amendments have been submitted to the committee.

2155 GMT — Ukraine’s top military command in favour of defending Bakhmut: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s top military command is unanimously in favour of defending the sector of eastern Ukraine, including the besieged city of Bakhmut, and inflicting maximum losses on the enemy, President Voldoymyr Zelenskyy has said.

“The main focus was on … Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said in his fresh video address.

“There was a clear position of the entire command: strengthen this sector and destroy the occupiers to the maximum.”

2134 GMT — Moscow views Black Sea drone incident as provocation

Moscow views the incident involving a Russian Su-27 fighter jet and a US military drone over the Black Sea as provocation, Russia’s RIA state news agency cited Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, as saying.

“We view this incident as a provocation,” Antonov said after being summoned by the US State Department.

Washington said that the fighter jet downed the US drone. Russia has denied that.

2130 GMT — White phosphorus reportedly fired in eastern Ukraine

White phosphorus munitions have been fired from Russian positions on an uninhabited area by the town of Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine, the AFP news agency reported. 

Two projectiles were fired five minutes apart at around 4:45 pm [1445 GMT] on a road at the southern edge of Chasiv Yar leading to nearby Bakhmut, the centre of the longest and bloodiest battle of Russia’s year-long offensive.

The whistling sound from the projectiles was followed by explosions caused by munitions that released small, burning balls of white phosphorus that slowly fell to the ground.

The balls set fire to the vegetation on both sides of the road on a surface equivalent to the size of a football pitch.

For our live updates from Monday (March 14), click here.

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