Russia has warned the United States to cease «hostile» activity near its border after the dramatic incident involving a US drone over the Black Sea.

Ukraine said Wednesday that the episode, the first known direct confrontation between the two superpowers since the war began last year, illustrates the Kremlin’s desire to expand the conflict.

A Russian fighter jet harassed and then collided with the propeller of an MQ-9 Reaper drone on Tuesday, forcing the United States to shoot down the drone in international waters, the US military said. Washington said it was a «blatant violation of international law» and summoned Moscow’s envoy to lodge a protest.

But Russia accused the United States of being at fault for conducting surveillance near its airspace to help Ukraine.

“We proceed from the fact that the United States will refrain from further speculation in the media landscape and will stop making incursions near the Russian borders,” the country’s ambassador to the United States said after their meeting at the State Department. “We perceive any action involving the use of US military weapons and equipment as openly hostile,” Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in a statement. posted on the embassy Telegram On Wednesday.

Antonov insisted that the Russian warplanes did not hit the American drone or use its weapons. He echoed earlier claims by Moscow’s Defense Ministry, which said it had sent planes to intercept the drone after it invaded an area near Crimea that Russia had declared off-limits for the purpose of what it calls its «operation special military».

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, leaves the State Department on Tuesday. Patrick Semansky/AP

“The unacceptable actions of the United States military in the vicinity of our borders are cause for concern,” Antonov said. “They collect intelligence, which is subsequently used by the kyiv regime to attack our armed forces and our territory.”

He added that Russia «does not seek confrontation.»

But the incident highlighted rising tensions over the war in Ukraine, with the Kremlin eager to dissuade the United States from maintaining its support for kyiv.

The standoff was a sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s «readiness to expand the conflict zone with the involvement of other parties,» Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter on Wednesday. Putin was losing on the battlefield and so was constantly raising the stakes «in the hope of a change in circumstances,» he said.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has also called on Russia to respect international airspace.

«The key here is for all parties to respect international airspace and we urge the Russians to do so,» Wallace told Reuters at a defense show in Japan.

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets tracked the US surveillance drone as it flew in international airspace over the Black Sea, which borders Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, among other countries, according to the US European Command.

Before the collision, the planes «refuelled and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, unprofessional and unecological manner,» it said in a statement.

The United States summoned Antonov to the State Department over the incident, spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday, to convey «strong objections» to this «unsafe and unprofessional interception.»

The Tuesday afternoon meeting between Antonov and Under Secretary for Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried lasted less than an hour, a senior State Department official said.

Two US defense officials said the Russian plane that collided with the drone did not crash but landed in Crimea.

The officials said it is the first time they are aware of a Russian plane dropping fuel on a US plane during an interception.

The United States has removed the drone’s software and is considering its salvage options for the wreckage, but the Russians can get to what’s left of the drone faster than a US ship, officials said. The US would need to send a ship across the Bosphorus from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, while the Russians have ships in the Black Sea.

The Turks have resisted allowing US and other countries’ warships to transit through the strait in recent months, the officials said.

courtney kube, moses wins, Artem Grudinin and Reuters contributed.

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