China is hoping there will be a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and is urging Russia and Ukraine to come to the table for peace talks, China’s foreign minister told his Ukrainian counterpart in a telephone conversation Thursday.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba China “has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks.”
Qin also said “China hopes that all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained,” according to the statement, as Russian’s invasion of Ukraine has recently passed its one-year anniversary.
The U.S. military released a video Thursday of a Russian military intercept that resulted in the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone Tuesday over the Black Sea.
The video shows a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 dumping fuel as it approaches the U.S. MQ-9 drone from behind and passes over the top.
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 U.S. military says the Russian fighter aircraft collided with the drone.
A final shot shows the video feed restored and that one of the drone’s propeller blades has been bent.
The video’s release came a day after U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart about the encounter.
“The United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows, and it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” Austin told reporters after announcing that he had “just got off the phone” with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
It was the first call between the two defense leaders since October, according to officials.
Meanwhile, Poland became the first NATO country to dispatch fighter jets to Ukraine, agreeing to send four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv’s forces in the coming days. The U.S. and other Western allies far have balked at Kyiv demands for attack jets.
The downed U.S. MQ-9 drone was “conducting routine operations” in international airspace Tuesday, according to the U.S. military, when the pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft intercepted it. U.S. forces brought down the drone in international waters after the Russian jet struck the drone’s propeller.
“We know that the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional. We also know it is very unprofessional and very unsafe,” General 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 is considering whether to try to retrieve the drone, but U.S. officials said its operatives were able to remotely erase sensitive software on the drone to prevent Russia from collecting secret information before sending the aircraft into the Black Sea.
The U.S. does not have ships in the Black Sea, which is largely controlled by Russia.
“But we do have a lot of allies and friends in the area, and we'll work through recovery operations. That's U.S. property,” Milley said.
Another top U.S. military leader, Gen. Erik Kurilla, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that since March 1, the U.S. is seeing an increase “in the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russian Air Force." He said armed Russian fighter jets fly over U.S. bases in Syria “in an attempt to try and be provocative."
Kurilla said that Russia tries to "renegotiate the deconfliction protocols that they violate every day."
Russia denied that its Su-27 jets came into contact with the U.S. drone and pinned blame for the crash on the operation of the drone. A U.S. military official told VOA the unmanned MQ-9 has not yet been recovered. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday the United States summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry Telegram channel reported Wednesday that Shoigu has blamed the incident on the United States’ "non-compliance with the restricted 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 the Ukraine 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 partner with the United States to provide two additional National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS.
“Ukraine matters. It matters not to just Ukraine or to the United States, it matters to the world. This is about the rules-based international order,” Austin told reporters Wednesday.
“Russia is running out of capability and out of friends,” he added. “Putin still hopes he can wear down Ukraine and wait us out, so we can’t let up, and we won’t.”