March 14, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, March 15, 2023
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3:39 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Russia denies that fighter jets came "into contact" with US drone

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Radina Gigova

A Russian fighter aircraft "did not use airborne weapons or come into contact" with a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement Tuesday. 

"On 14 March 2023 in the morning, the Russian airspace control systems have detected an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle flying over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation," the ministry said in the statement, which they released in English as well. 
"The drone flew with its transponders off, violating the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace, and published in accordance with international standards," the ministry said. 

The ministry said that Russian fighter jets "scrambled to identify the intruder."

"As a result of quick maneuvering around 9.30 a.m. (Moscow time), the MQ-9 drone went into an unguided flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface," the ministry said. 

"The Russian aircraft did not use on-board weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield," the ministry said. 

Some more context: Earlier today, the US Air Force said a Russian fighter jet forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea after damaging the propeller of the drone. The White House is calling Moscow's actions "unsafe, unprofessional and reckless."

While Russian and US aircraft have operated over the Black Sea during the Ukraine war, this is the first known interaction of this nature since the conflict began, and a potentially dangerous escalation at a critical time in the fighting.

3:41 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Pentagon: Russian aircraft flew near US drone for 30 to 40 minutes before collision

From CNN's Haley Britzky

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing. (Pool)

Russian aircraft were flying alongside a US Reaper drone for 30 to 40 minutes before they collided with it, ultimately causing it to crash, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday.

“[B]ased on the information I have here, it seems like approximately 30 to 40 minutes they were flying in the vicinity of this MQ-9,” Ryder said, before the aircraft “collided” with the drone, rendering it unflyable and forcing the US to bring it down into international waters.
3:23 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Russian intercept of drone “uncommon and unfortunate and unsafe," Pentagon spokesperson says

From CNN's Michael Conte

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing. (Pool)

The United States has been conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in international waters in the Black Sea “for some time,” including before Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

“The key point here is that while intercepts in and of themselves are not that uncommon, ... this type of behavior from these Russian pilots, that is uncommon and unfortunate and unsafe,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.

Ryder said that Russia has not recovered the downed drone. 

Ryder would not say whether the MQ-9 drone was armed, but added that the Defense Department is working to declassify imagery from the intercept.

3:18 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US summons Russian ambassador to convey "strong objections" over drone intercept incident

Form CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Russia's Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, is seen in Washington, DC on December 12, 2017.
Russia's Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, is seen in Washington, DC on December 12, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/File)

The US State Department is summoning the Russian ambassador to convey its "strong objections" to the downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea, a spokesperson said.

The “high-level engagement” with Ambassador Anatoly Antonov was expected to take place later Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

During the meeting, the ambassador will “hear directly from senior officials about our strong objections to what was clearly an unsafe and unprofessional intercept on the part of a Russian aircraft," the spokesperson said.

In Moscow, US Ambassador Lynne Tracy “has conveyed a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” about the incident, according to Price. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently traveling and is not in Washington, DC.

3:03 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US defense secretary has not spoken to Russian counterpart about drone intercept incident

From CNN's Haley Britzky

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has not spoken to his Russian counterpart about the Russian aircraft intercepting a US Reaper drone, resulting in its downing over international waters.

“In terms of Secretary Austin talking to his counterpart — not at this time, to my knowledge,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday. “DoD officials have not spoken specifically to Russian authorities on this particular incident.” 

The MQ-9 Reaper drone was conducting “routine operations in international airspace” on Tuesday when two Russian Su-27 aircraft intercepted it, a US military statement said.

One of the Russian aircraft hit the drone, resulting in “a crash and complete loss” of the drone, Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa said.

3:16 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Explosion in Russian-held city of Melitopol kills 1, Russian-backed administration says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

The owner of a car blown up Tuesday in the center of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol has died in the hospital from his wounds, the Russian-backed regional administration said in a Telegram post

Two others, a woman and a child, were also injured, according to Vladimir Rogov, a member of the main council of the pro-Russian Zaporizhzhia region military-civilian administration.

All three have been hospitalized, he said. 

The explosion was carried out with an improvised explosive device, according to Rogov, and it happened near a market.

Rogov said a local pro-Russian entrepreneur was the target of the alleged attack. 

CNN is not able to independently verify those claims. 

3:12 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US State Department has briefed allies on drone incident, spokesperson says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference on March 10, 2022, in Washington, DC.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference on March 10, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/File)

The United States has briefed allies about Russia's downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea, according to the State Department.

Spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday the US was “not in position to speak to what the Russians intended to do” with the maneuvers that brought the drone down, but noted that “the motivations matter much less than what actually transpired.”

He said the US is "engaged at high levels with allies."

“We are in a position to speak to what happened and what happened was an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver on the part of a Russian aircraft, a maneuver that was also tinged with a lack of competence that caused the US military to need to bring this unmanned craft down. That is the result again of these Russian actions. We can characterize them, but we can't characterize the motivations,” he said at a State Department briefing. 
2:37 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US State Dept. releases new report outlining Russian disinformation on US and Ukrainian biological weapons 

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US State Department’s Global Engagement Center on Tuesday released a new report outlining Russia’s attempts to spread disinformation about American and Ukrainian biological weapons. 

The eight-page report does not seem to present new information about the disinformation effort, but rather gives a comprehensive look at the widespread efforts on the matter, from the days of the Soviet Union to the current war in Ukraine.

The release of the report comes a day after a senior State Department official said that Russia and China have “clearly” aligned themselves on propaganda and disinformation regarding the war in Ukraine, and that the United States and the West have not invested enough over the years in countering such disinformation.

Tuesday’s report noted that “Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has pushed false claims for decades about biological weapons in an attempt to create mistrust in the peaceful global efforts and public health institutions that counter biological threats.”

“Since the February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem has increased the volume and intensity of its disinformation about biological weapons in an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its invasion of Ukraine, to diminish international support for Ukraine, and to justify its unjustifiable war,” it stated.

“Russia has a history of accusing others of doing what it is doing itself, and its recent biological weapons claims related to Ukraine are no different. The United States assesses that Russia continues to maintain an offensive biological weapons program in violation of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention,” the report added. 

The report gave numerous examples of the disinformation that Russia has promulgated since the start of the war, including one of its "most notable false claims is that the United States worked with Ukraine to train an army of migratory birds, mosquitos and even bats to carry biological weapons into Russia," which it added was "absurd."

The report described the false claims as being spread through "Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem, such as Kremlin-funded media outlets and Russian Intelligence-linked websites" and "so-called ‘experts'" who speak to the Russian press. 

It also highlighted Russia's parliamentary commission investigating what it alleges are US biological laboratories in Ukraine, which the report said spreads false information about biological weapons.

2:18 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US drone that went down in Black Sea has not been recovered, military says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The US Reaper drone that crashed after being struck by a Russian fighter jet has not been recovered in the Black Sea, a spokesperson for US European Command said.

In an earlier statement the commander for US Air Forces Europe said the drone was “hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9," US Air Forces commander Gen. James Hecker said.

Some more context: CNN reported earlier a Russian fighter jet forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday after damaging the propeller of the American MQ-9 Reaper drone, according to a US official familiar with the incident.

The Reaper drone and two SU-27 Flanker jets were operating over international waters over the Black Sea when one of the Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel in front of the unmanned drone, according to the official.

President Joe Biden was briefed Tuesday morning by National security adviser Jake Sullivan about the incident, according to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby. US officials are planning to contact Russia to voice concern about the drone incident, according to Kirby.