Aljazeera is reporting that the Russian pilots involved in the downing of a U.S. Reaper surveillance drone have been given awards and suggests that means it’s open season on the aircraft operating near Ukraine. “The drone flew with its transponders off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary airspace usage regime established for the special military operation [and] communicated to all users of international airspace,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement reported in the Moscow Times, according to Aljazeera.
The publication also quoted columnist Sergei Markov, who it described as “pro-Kremlin,” as writing that the presentation of the awards was “a clear sign that Russia will keep downing” U.S. drones. The Air Force announced last week that it has resumed regular drone missions over the region after the two award-winning pilots dumped fuel on the Reaper and one clipped its propeller on March 14. The remote pilots ditched the damaged drone in the Black Sea.