The Russian news site Pravda ran a story on Monday claiming: “The Russian Aerospace Forces may have shot down an American drone over the Black Sea.” The piece quickly gained traction on social media with so-called Russian “Z-bloggers.”

The “Military Observer,” who titles himself as a “new military journalist,” said on his Telegram channel that it was certain that a Russian MiG-31 fighter on patrol over the Black Sea had “shot down a US Air Force reconnaissance drone.” He said that this was presumably “a high-altitude reconnaissance drone RQ-4B Global Hawk,” later confirming there had been “a certain incident” but that the “Pentagon denies the incident.”

The notorious Russian milblogger “Fighterbomber” who has almost half a million subscribers and is alleged to have links to the Russian Aerospace Forces seemed to confirm the incident but couched his claims in vague terms:

“Well then. A start has been made. Congratulations to everyone involved. Handsome guys! We are waiting for an ‘OK’ from the Yankees.” It went on: “There is now increased turbulence in the Black Sea. Let's see whether it's on an ongoing basis or whether it was a one-off event.”

He went on to say, “The crew [of the Mig-31] was nominated for state awards.”

The veracity of the claims seemed to be confirmed later, in an unusual direction. A post on X (formerly Twitter) by Reuters correspondent Idris Ali quoted a “Pentagon source” who said there was no confirmation of the incident. However shortly after the post appeared it and the quote were removed, which conspiracy theorists interpreted as the US military covering up the incident.

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Reports of explosions close to a Russian S-400 anti-missile site support the claims that an associated radar station was damaged during the attack.

Other Z-bloggers were less convinced. “Informant,” said in a Telegram post on Tuesday that the last recorded sighting of Global Hawks in the region had been on Sunday, June 23 when one carried out a routine surveillance flight before returning to its base in Sicily.

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He then commented, in a (not so) veiled criticism of Fighterbomber: “…the source who reported such good news does not inspire confidence – he already ‘shot down’ a NATO drone on June 3 with the power of one Telegram channel.”

Another so-called “military correspondent,” Yuri Kotenok, accused “certain idiots” who “out of stupidity or malicious intent create virtual successes.” He warned against “inventing victories” quoting past false boasts: “For nine years they did the same thing in Syria. I remember that there they once ‘destroyed’ a command post with a thousand NATO officers using ‘Kalibrs’. And in Kharkiv, in two years, we have killed every member of Kraken [Ukrainian special forces unit] three times.

A Moscow Times report cited a Telegram post by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskpov who said he had no information relating to the alleged incident.

However, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on Monday, citing alleged data from Flightradar24, that a US Global Hawk surveillance drone was in airspace over annexed Crimea at the time of an attack against the port city of Sevastopol. It implied that the Global Hawk and / or MQ-9 Reaper drones were providing targeting information for Ukraine in attacks against Russian forces in Crimea, in general, and the attack on Sunday when a Russian air defense missile is believed to have brought down an ATACMS missile that detonated over a crowded beach killing six and injuring more than 150 Russian tourists.

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Open-source intelligence analyst Oliver Alexander, said on X that there had indeed been an RQ-4B Global Hawk had been operating over the Black Sea on Sunday / Monday but flight radar data showed it had safely returned to the Sigonella airbase, in Lentini, Sicily on Monday morning.

Other pro-Western military social media accounts suggest that the Global Hawk had simply switched off its transponder during a “sensitive” element of its mission over the Black Sea before later reactivating it prior to its return to base.

The story took another turn on Wednesday when Fighterbomber, in a further post, “clarified” the situation. He said that the drone hadn’t actually been shot down as this would have been “an act of aggression.” He said there was video of the encounter that showed how the Russian MiG-31 interceptor flew in close proximity to the UAV, forcing it to change course and return to base for which the crew had been nominated for an “Order of Courage” medal.

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The independent news site Insider reported this new explanation but asked the very pertinent question as to why exactly did the pilot and navigator of the Mig-31, which the news site said were from the 790th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the 105th Russian Aerospace Forces Mixed Aviation Division, qualify for a medal awarded for heroism?

A similar incident occurred in March 2023, when two Russian Su-27 fighter aircraft “buzzed” an MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea several times before striking it and forcing it to ditch into the sea.

The Global Hawk UAV, manufactured by Northrop Gruman has a 39.6-meter (130 feet) wingspan and a maximum altitude of 17,700 meters (58,000 feet) and a flight endurance of around 32 hours. The drone is designed to provide valuable intelligence information in close to real time. It has been operated by the US Air Force since 2001 on military operations in Afghanistan, Asia, the Pacific region, Iraq and North Africa.

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