An American MQ-9 crashed into the Black Sea on 14 March. The United States accused the Russian Su-27 of damaging the drone and causing it to crash. Moscow insisted that the fighter jets that were escorting the drone did not come into contact with it.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu put forward the Su-27 pilots who downed the US drone for state decorations.
According to the Defence Ministry, the pilots "prevented the American MQ-9 drone from violating the boundaries of the special operation area".
The ministry stated that the drone was flying with transponders turned off violating the borders of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace. All users of international airspace had been informed about the boundaries of the area in accordance with international standards, the ministry also said.
The names and the ranks of the decorated pilots have not been disclosed.
On March 14, the US European Command reported that a Russian Su-27 collided with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. A few days later, the command released a video of the incident showing a Russian fighter aircraft approaching the drone at high speed and dumping fuel on it.
The United States claimed that the Su-27 touched the propeller of the drone which caused it to crash. The Russian Defence Ministry claims that the Su-27s did not come into contact with the MQ-9 nor did it use airborne weapons.
The MQ-9 Reaper is an attack drone developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The drone is in service with the US and the UK. The drone is capable of developing speeds of more than 400 km/h and stay airborne for as long as 24 hours. The MQ-9 Reaper is also capable of carrying about ten AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.
Bodies of military personnel with American and Polish chevrons on uniforms were found in Avdiivka, adviser to the head of the Donetsk People's Republic said