The issue of the US MQ-9 drone that crashed near Crimea on 14 March in the Black Sea shows no sign of subsiding. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged the White House to warn Moscow that Russian military aircraft will be destroyed if they approach US Air Force planes in international waters.
Meanwhile, various reconstructions of what happened to the MQ-9 have spread across the social sphere. The US Air Force claims that the manoeuvres of a pair of Russian fighter jets led to the downing of the Su-27 drone. One of the aircraft that took off to intercept allegedly used a well-known trick, opened the exhaust valve and doused the drone with fuel, the jet of which damaged the MQ-9’s main rotor. The US even called the manoeuvre ‘unhealthy for the environment’.
Other sources claim that the cause of the accident was a technical malfunction. In the area of its flight, allegedly, there were indeed aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, but they only witnessed the UAV crash.
According to a third version, the MQ-9 Reaper was shot down by a Russian fighter with an air-to-air missile, mistaking it for another attack drone of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
What really happened may be clarified by the video of the US drone camera, which was clearly filming while in flight. Before its publication, apart from the appearance of photographs of the wreckage, it is difficult to determine its exact cause. After all, as they write in the social sphere: ‘such an accident had to happen sooner or later’.
Since February 2022, according to the Russian social sphere, ‘reconnaissance planes of NATO countries have been constantly flying over the waters of the Black Sea. The RQ-4 (Global Hawk, ed.) drones coordinate air strikes by the armed forces of Ukraine and openly provoke the armed forces of the Russian Federation: there are known cases of them violating Russian airspace, even if only for a few seconds’.
They add: ‘It is not surprising that another aerial object flying near the peninsula was considered a threat. This is absolutely logical against the background of the regular Ukrainian drone raids in Crimea, which are taking place with direct US support’.
The question now is who gets to the drone wreckage first. The Russians are certainly interested in arriving and recovering the wreckage.
NATO’s commander-in-chief in Europe, SACEUR, Christopher Cavoli cancelled the MQ-9 Reaper UAV flights near Russia’s borders. Three MQ-9 departures were scheduled for 15 March 2023: from Italy to Crimea, Lithuania to Kaliningrad and Romania to Lvov.
It was reported from the front that the Ukrainian armed forces lost defensive nodes north of Artemovsk (Bachmut). The information has been confirmed, i.e. Wagner men have taken the village of Zaliznyansky, which is now under Russian control. This was announced via social media by Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in an audio message. As a result, Russian units are about to enter the operational space north of Artemovsk.
The loss of Zaliznyansky significantly complicates the Ukrainian defence in the northern sector of the ‘Bachmut zone’. Russian units can now increase the pressure on the village of Orekhovo-Vasilyevka. In the event of a loss, the Ukrainians will have their only possible lines of defence in front of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in the form of the villages of Minkovka and Malinovka, where they can gain a foothold. This territory is extremely difficult to conquer. The further development of success north of Bachmut could force the Ukrainian armed forces to surrender vast territories due to their inability to defend themselves in this area. And we are talking about the territories up to the outskirts of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue to target Konstantinovka, through which the Ukrainian Armed Forces are trying to push reserves into Bachmut. There have been regular arrivals in the city for several days now. Similarly, strikes are being carried out in the area of the Yar watch. In response, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are desperately trying to save the Khromovo – Chasov Yar road.