Russia Honors Fuel-Spraying Pilots

Defense ministry says they prevented drone from entering 'temporary airspace regime'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2023 12:39 PM CDT
Russia Honors Fuel-Spraying Pilots
This photo taken from video released on Thursday, March 16, 2023, shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel.   (US Department of Defense via AP)

Two Russian pilots who behaved in what the US military calls a "reckless" and "unprofessional" manner in international airspace over the Black Sea have been honored by Russia's defense ministry. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Friday that the pilots of two Su-27 jets that encountered an American MQ-9 Reaper drone had received state awards, NPR reports. The US released video Thursday of the jets dumping fuel on the drone. The Pentagon says it was forced to bring the drone down after its propeller was damaged in a collision that likely also damaged a Russian jet.

Russia's defense ministry said the pilots were honored for preventing the drone from "violating the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation," Fox reports. The ministry claimed the drone was flying with its transponders off. It said the Russian pilots "did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield." A source tells CNN that American officials believe Russia has recovered some debris from the downed drone.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that fighter jets sent to Ukraine by NATO countries would be destroyed and would only "bring additional woes for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people," the BBC reports. On Thursday, Poland became the first country to pledge fighter jets to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. Poland promised to send four Soviet-era MiG-29 jets in the coming days, with more expected to follow. On Friday, Slovakia pledged to send its fleet of 13 MiG-29s. (More Russia stories.)

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