On Friday, Russia claimed it caught a US intelligence drone in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine. According to reports, Rostec, a Russian state-owned corporation, brought it down electronically. The Pentagon released a statement, however, saying there was “zero truth” to the report.
“The drone was flying at about 4,000 metres (12,000 feet) and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic” technology, said Rostec in a statement.
Russia is in full control of Crimea. The peninsula is holding a referendum on Sunday when the residents will choose to stay with Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. The vote is expected to go in Russia’s favor since over 58% of the population are ethnic Russians.
Pro-Russians and Russian forces took over many locations in Crimea, including the airport. They cancelled all flights at the airport except for those to and from Moscow.
Rostec said these pro-Russians almost captured the drone, but confirmed it was their company which took it down. They did not say who or what was operating the aircraft. Rostec did release details of the drone:
“Judging by its identification number, UAV MQ-5B belonged to the 66th American Reconnaissance Brigade, based in Bavaria,” Rostec said on its website, which also carried a picture of what it said was the captured drone.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London in a last-minute attempt to stop the referendum and put an end to the crisis. Nothing was accomplished, but Kerry said the US will not recognize the referendum and promised more sanctions against Russia if it uses the votes to justify more aggression against Ukraine.