American politicians are inciting an ?apocalyptic conflict,? Russia's envoy warned
Russia's ambassador to the US has accused Senator Lindsey Graham of provoking "dangerous escalation" between the two countries, after the senior lawmaker urged the Pentagon to fire on Russian fighter jets.
Asked about Graham's comments on Wednesday, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said the senator's call to shoot down Russian aircraft went "far beyond common sense" and risked all-out war between the world's largest nuclear powers.
"This is by no means the first attempt by the notorious lawmaker to provoke a dangerous escalation in the US-Russian relations. A year ago he urged our citizens to make an assassination attempt on the president of Russia," he said. "Does Senator Graham really believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of the voters who entrusted him with their lives and livelihood?"
Graham appeared on Fox News earlier on Wednesday to discuss a recent close encounter between Russian fighter jets and a US MQ-9 Reaper drone near Crimea, calling for a tough response from President Joe Biden after the UAV was sent plunging into the Black Sea.
"What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down, if they were threatening our assets," Graham told the outlet, referring to the US leader who served at the height of Cold War brinkmanship with the Soviet Union.
While US officials claimed one of the Russian planes collided with the drone and caused it to crash, the Russian Defense Ministry said the unmanned vehicle went down after stalling, and never came into contact with another aircraft.
Antonov went on to argue that Moscow "did everything possible to prevent this kind of incident," including informing the international community "in good time about the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime" established in the area.
While the ambassador said it is a "shame for the Pentagon to lose an expensive piece of equipment," he insisted "it is not the Russian pilots who should be called out," but rather American politicians, "who are inciting the start of an apocalyptic conflict."
Washington has flown drones and surveillance craft near the Russian border on a near-constant basis over the last year, providing intelligence - along with weapons, ammunition and money - to the Ukrainian government even as it insists it is not a party to the conflict. The exact location of this week's drone encounter was not confirmed by either government, though Russian news outlets have reported that the Reaper's last location was about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.