US says it summoned Russian ambassador over downing of drone over Black Sea

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States summoned Russia's ambassador to Washington on Tuesday after a Russian fighter jet downed a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow has conveyed a strong message to Russia's foreign affairs ministry and U.S. officials had briefed allies and partners about the incident, Price told reporters on a phone briefing.

"We can confirm Ambassador (Anatoly) Antonov was summoned to the State Department this afternoon to meet with Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried to discuss Russia’s unsafe and unprofessional operations over the Black Sea, which resulted in the downing today of an unmanned U.S. aircraft," a senior State Department official said.

A U.S military MQ-9 surveillance drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets, in the first such incident since Russia's invasion of Ukraine over a year ago.

The Pentagon said one of the Russian Su-27 jets struck the propeller of the drone, making it inoperable, while Russia's defense ministry blamed "sharp maneuvering" of the unmanned drone for the crash and said its jets did not come into contact with the U.S. craft.

Calling the incident a "brazen violation of international law," Price declined to say what response U.S. ambassador Lynne Tracy in Moscow received from the Russians when she conveyed Washington's protest.

He referred reporters to the Department of Defense when asked about the effort to recover the downed drone.

Antonov was called into the State Department last August and warned against Moscow escalating its war in Ukraine. In that meeting, Washington had called for Russia to cease military operations at or near Europe's largest nuclear power plant, according to a Department spokesperson.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Rami Ayyub and Simon Lewis; Editing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot)