‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja


DAILY COURIER – Relations with the US are in a “lamentable state” and at their lowest level, the Kremlin says after Washington accused Russia of downing one of its Reaper drones.


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke over the phone with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, the Russian defense ministry said as reported by Interfax state-run media.


The conversation took place “at the initiative of the American side”, it added.


While no details were provided on what was discussed, the call comes as Washington and Moscow are ramping up their confrontational rhetoric over a US surveillance drone that crashed near Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula – which the Kremlin has illegally annexed.


The US said Russian jets hits the propeller of the drone, while Moscow says no contact was made and blamed “sharp maneuvering” by the US aircraft for the incident.


US to continue flying ‘wherever international law allows’: Austin

The US will continue to fly wherever international law allows, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters, after speaking with Russian defense ministry Sergei Shoigu.


I just got off the phone with my Russian counterpart, Minister Shoigu,” Austin said at a Pentagon press briefing. “As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s important that great powers be models of transparency and communication, and the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” he added.


The US has said it was working on declassifying surveillance footage from the drone that would show Tuesday’s crash.


Austin’s comments came just after Russian top diplomat Sergey Lavrov said Washington was well aware that Moscow had established airspace restrictions over the Black Sea region since the start of the war.


That Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were talking underscored the seriousness of the encounter over the Black Sea. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, contact between the two military leaders has been limited, with Russian officials refusing to take US military calls in the early months of the war.