A Russian fighter plane has collided with an American drone over the Black Sea, causing US officials to condemn Russia's "unprofessional and reckless behaviour."
The collision is reported to have occurred at 07:03 CET (06:03 GMT) on Tuesday morning, and involved a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 fighter clipping the propeller of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The drone subsequently crashed into the Black Sea, while the Russian plane suffered "unknown damage" but was later able to safely land at an airbase in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
"Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9," US Air Force General James Hecker, the commander of the US Air Force in the region, said in a statement.
He added that "this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash", and further suggested that the collision "follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots... over international airspace".
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby similarly condemned Russia's actions as "unsafe, unprofessional and reckless". He added that US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the incident.
The statement underlined that these aggressive actions by Russian aircrews are "dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation," adding that US Air Forces routinely fly throughout Europe over sovereign territory and international airspace in coordination with host nations and international laws.
Russian media has also reported on the collision, although no Russian officials yet issued a comment.