The US Air Force has released video said to show a Russian jet intercepting an American drone and dumping fuel in its path over the Black Sea.
The US said two Russian Su-27 jets intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper in international airspace on Tuesday before one hit its propeller, forcing it to crash the drone in the ocean.
It said the fuel dump was likely done to damage the drone’s optical instruments and that Russian aircraft flew in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner”.
Moscow denied the claims and said the jets did not come into contact with the drone and that it crashed due to “sharp manoeuvring”.
It said the MQ-9 Reaper was flying towards the Russian border with its transponders – wireless communication devices – turned off.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu accused the US of ignoring flight restrictions imposed by Russia due to the Ukraine war.
However, America insisted the drone was on a routine flight in international airspace to bolster European defence and security.
The incident has shown the increasing risk of confrontation between the superpowers and prompted the first calls since October between their top commanders and defence secretaries.