By KARL RITTER and DINO HAZELL
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a U.S. Air Force surveillance drone before the warplane clipped the drone's propeller in international airspace, leading to its crash in the Black Sea and raising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.
Poland, meanwhile, said it's giving Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv's increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
The U.S. military's declassified 42-second color footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone's optical instruments to drive it from the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian fighter that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone's propeller, damaging a blade, according to the U.S. military, which said it then ditched the unmanned aircraft in the sea.
Russia said its fighters didn't strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp maneuver.
Asked Thursday if Russia would try to recover the drone debris, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision was up to the military. "If they consider it necessary to do so in the Black Sea for the benefit of our interests and our security, they will do it," he said.
U.S. officials have expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia managed to retrieve the wreckage. They left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32 million aircraft, which they said crashed into waters that were 4,000 to 5,000 feet (1,200 to 1,500 meters) deep.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other's warplanes, but the drone incident marked the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft went down during such a confrontation, raising concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to a direct conflict.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed.
The Kremlin argues that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the U.S. and its allies have effectively become engaged in the war, now in its 13th month.
Such U.S. actions "are fraught with escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area," the Defense Ministry said, warning that Moscow "will respond in kind to all provocations."
The MQ-9, which has a 66-foot (20-meter) wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, would not say whether the ditched drone had been armed.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw would give Ukraine four Soviet-made MiG-29s "within the next few days" and that the rest needed servicing and would be supplied later. The Polish word he used to describe the total number of warplanes can mean between 11 and 19.
"They are in the last years of their functioning but they are in good working condition," Duda added. He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia has said it would send Ukraine its disused MiGs.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for fighter jets from the West, NATO allies have expressed hesitancy.
Before Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited in the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union, but it's unclear how many of them remain in service after more than a year of fighting.
In other developments, a court in Russia on Thursday affirmed the right of a man mobilized to fight in Ukraine to perform an alternative form of civil service due to his stated religious beliefs, setting a precedent that could persuade more reluctant draftees to try to get out of military service.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a call-up of army reservists in September. Although officials said 300,000 men were drafted as planned, the mobilization also spurred resistance. Tens of thousands of men fled the country, and some of those who stayed ignored their summons.
Also, a report from a U.N.-backed inquiry released Thursday states that Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions, amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
"There were elements of planning and availability of resources which indicate that the Russian authorities may have committed torture as crimes against humanity," said Erik Møse, a former Norwegian Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights judge who led the investigation.