Russian authorities have said they will try to recover the fragments of a US surveillance drone that American forces brought down in the Black Sea after an encounter with Russian fighter jets.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s security council, said in remarks televised on Wednesday that the Kremlin plans to search for the drone’s debris.
Mr Patrushev said: “I don’t know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it.
“I certainly hope for success.”
He stressed that the drone’s presence over the Black Sea was not an uncommon occurrence.
Mr Kirby said the MQ-9 Reaper drone had not yet been recovered and it was unclear whether it would be.
Mr Patrushev claimed the drone incident underlined the US engagement in the hostilities in Ukraine.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, also noted that Russia has the capability to recover the drone’s fragments.
US officials accused Russia of attempting to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle.
Mr Kirby said the drone had not yet been recovered and it was unclear whether it would be, but the US “took steps to protect the information and to protect, to minimise any effort by anybody else to exploit that drone for useful content”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated the Russian defence ministry’s statement that Russian jets did not use their weapons or have any impact on the US drone.
Mr Peskov described US-Russia relations as being at their lowest point but added that “Russia has never rejected a constructive dialogue, and it’s not rejecting it now”.
At the Pentagon, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said the intercept by the Russian jet was part of a “pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace”.
He said Russia must operate its aircraft in a safe manner.
“Make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” Mr Austin said in opening remarks before a virtual meeting of a US-led effort to coordinate Western military support for Ukraine.
While encounters between Russian and Nato aircraft are not unusual – before the invasion of Ukraine, Nato planes were involved in an annual average of 400 intercepts with Russian planes – the war has heightened the significance and potential hazards of such incidents.
“The last thing that we want, certainly the last thing that anybody should want, is for this war in Ukraine to escalate to become something between the United States and Russia, to have this actually … expand beyond that,” Mr Kirby told CNN.
The secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council, Oleksiy Danilov, tweeted on Wednesday that the drone incident was “a signal from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that he is ready to expand the conflict zone, with drawing other parties in”.