The Russians have reached the MQ-9 crash site in the Black Sea, according to two US officials, as the Kremlin promises to attempt to recover the US surveillance drone.
Russia’s Navy has several ships in the Black Sea, including ships based in Crimean ports, which would have placed them in an advantageous position to attempt to recover the US MQ-9 Reaper drone after its encounter with Russian fighter jets on Tuesday.
The drone came down in international waters approximately 70 miles southwest of Crimea, one of the officials said. It is unclear if Russia was able to recover any of the wreckage from the drone when they arrived at the crash site.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby would not confirm that Russians were at the site. He reiterated however that the US took steps to make it "impossible" for Russia to acquire any useful information from the drone's remnants.
"Whatever's left of that that's floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of re-engineering or anything like that. We're not overly concerned about whatever they might get their hands on."
He added: "It's our property and they have no business recovering anything."
The Russian Security Council Secretary said Wednesday that Russia will try to obtain the drone wreckage to study it.
“I don’t know if we will be able to get it or not, but we need to do it... And we will definitely look into it,” said Nikolai Patrushev on on Russian state TV Rossiya 1.
The drone landed in a part of the Black Sea that’s likely almost a mile deep, Gen. Mark A. Milley said, making any recovery effort extremely difficult. The US also has no Navy ships in the Black Sea, compounding the challenges in any US recovery attempt.