Pentagon – China hopes there will be a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and urges Russia and Ukraine to come to the table for peace talks, China’s foreign minister told his Ukrainian counterpart in a phone call on Thursday.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that China “is committed to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks.”
Qin also said that “China hopes that all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained,” according to the statement, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has recently passed its one-year anniversary.
The US military released video on Thursday of a Russian military intercept that resulted in the downing of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.
The video shows a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 dumping fuel as it approaches the US MQ-9 drone from behind and passes overhead.
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A second Sukhoi Su-27 approaches in a similar manner, and as it reaches the drone, the video feed is disrupted at the moment the US military says the Russian fighter jet collided with the drone.
A final image shows the video feed restored and one of the drone’s propeller blades bent.
The video was released a day after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart about the meeting.
“The United States will continue to fly and operate wherever international law allows, and it is incumbent on Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” Austin told reporters after announcing he had “just gotten off the phone” with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
It was the first conversation between the two defense chiefs since October, according to officials.
Meanwhile, Poland became the first NATO country to send fighter jets to Ukraine, agreeing to send four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Kiev’s forces in the coming days. The US and other Western allies have long backed Kiev’s demand for attack jets.
The downed US MQ-9 drone was “conducting routine operations” in international airspace on Tuesday, according to the US military, when it was intercepted by a pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets. US forces shot down the drone in international waters after the Russian jet hit the drone’s propeller.
Latest developments in Ukraine: 17 March
“We know the wiretapping was intentional. We know the aggressive behavior was intentional. We also know it’s very unprofessional and very unsafe,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday.
Milley said he was “not sure yet” whether the physical contact between the Russian aircraft and the drone was intentional.
Russia said it was considering whether to try to retrieve the drone, but US officials said its operators were able to remotely wipe sensitive software on the drone to prevent Russia from gathering classified information before sending the aircraft into the Black Sea.
The US has no ships in the Black Sea, which is largely controlled by Russia.
“But we have many allies and friends in the area, and we will work through recovery operations. It is American property,” Milley said.
Another top US military leader, General Erik Kurilla, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that since March 1 the US has seen an increase “in the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russian Air Force.” He said armed Russian warplanes are flying over US bases in Syria “in an attempt to try to be provocative.”
Kurilla said Russia is trying to “renegotiate the protocols of deconfliction that they violate every day.”
Russia denied that its Su-27 jet came into contact with the US drone and blamed the crash on the drone’s operation. A US military official told VOA that the unmanned MQ-9 has not yet been recovered. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the United States summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s Telegram channel reported on Wednesday that Shoigu has blamed the incident on the United States’ “failure to observe the limited flight zone declared by the Russian Federation, which was established as part of a special military operation.”
Earlier Wednesday, Austin and Milley hosted the 10th meeting of Ukraine’s Defense Contact Group more than a year after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The virtual meeting included 51 participants. Milley said the group promised “a broad mix of air defense systems,” in addition to providing more artillery, armor and ammunition. For example, Sweden will provide 10 more Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and Norway will work with the United States to provide two more National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS.
“Ukraine matters. It doesn’t matter to just Ukraine or to the United States, it matters to the world. This is about the rules-based international order,” Austin told reporters on Wednesday.
“Russia is running out of capabilities and out of friends,” he added. “Putin is still hoping he can wear down Ukraine and wait us out, so we can’t let go, and we won’t.”