US Drones Were Likely in the Air During Ukrainian Attack on Russian Ships, MoD Says
Moscow put its military operation in Ukraine on hold Friday afternoon after Kiev announced readiness to negotiate, but resumed it Saturday after Ukraine's leaders rejected talks on the grounds that the conditions weren't right.
The probability is high that US drones were in the air directing the Ukrainian gunboats which attempted to attack ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet during an operation Friday night, Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
"I would like to point special attention to the fact that during the attack by Ukrainian vessels, strategic US RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles were loitering over the area," Konashenkov said in a briefing Saturday.
"There is a strong likelihood that it was the American UAVs that directed Ukrainian boats at the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet," the spokesman said.
According to Konashenkov's information, 16 Ukrainian Navy gunboats using 'swarm tactics' attempted to attack Russian warships near Zmiinyi Island (Snake Island) off Odessa, southwestern Ukraine on Friday night during the evacuation of 82 Ukrainian Border Guard servicemen that surrendered to Russian forces off the island.
Some of these boats attempted to use civilian vessels as cover, the spokesman said. In the course of the fighting, six of the Ukrainian boats were destroyed. None of the 82 Ukrainian servicemen retrieved from Zmiinyi Island were injured, Konashenkov said.
The reported bravery of the Ukrainian garrison on Zmiinyi quickly became the subject of internet lore, with an audio clip of Ukrainian troops telling a Russian warship to "go f*** yourself" accompanied with reports that all 13 defenders of the island were mowed down by the Russians spread on social media and by news outlets. Ukraine's authorities decided to posthumously honour the island's defenders with the Hero of Ukraine award.
However, on Saturday, the Russian military published footage showing 82 Ukrainian military personnel said to have been taken off the island disembarking in Sevastopol, Crimea and being distributed field rations before being put on buses and sent home. "They laid down their arms and decided to return to their families," Maj. Gen. Mikhail Yasnikov, deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet for logistics, said. A safe corridor was made for them to leave the area of Russia's military operation, he said.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|