US to continue surveillance flights despite Russia's warning after downing drone

The US will continue with surveillance flights despite a Russian warplane striking down an American reconnaissance drone into the Black Sea.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin affirmed the US’s plans on Wednesday, a day after Russia downed the $32million American MQ-9 Reaper.

‘Make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,’ said Austin during a virtual meeting with about 50 countries backing Ukraine versus Russia in their war.

‘This hazardous episode is a part of a pattern of aggressive and risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace.

‘It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.’

Austin spoke shortly after Moscow warned the US government to keep aircrafts away from its airspace.

Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, claimed that Moscow was forced to respond to the Reaper ‘deliberately and provocatively’ approaching Moscow’s airspace.

‘The unacceptable activity of the US military in the close proximity to our borders is a cause for concern,’ said Antonov. ‘They gather intelligence, which is subsequently used by the Kyiv regime to strike at our armed forces and territory.’

Antonov then posed a rhetorical question.

‘If, for example, a Russian strike zone appeared near New York or San Francisco, how would the US Air Force and Navy react?’ he said.

The ambassador demanded that the US ‘stop making sorties near the Russian borders’.

It was the first time that a Russian warplane has struck down an American aircraft since the height of the Cold War. The action spread fears that there would be a diplomatic escalation between the two superpowers.

But Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told BBC he does not anticipate an escalation stemming from the drone downing, and instead called it a ‘routine incident’.

‘As long as Russia controls Crimea,’ said Kuleba, ‘These kinds of incidents will be inevitable and the Black Sea will not be a safe place.’

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