MOSCOW -- Russian authorities on Saturday claimed to have intercepted a U.S. surveillance drone over Ukraine's Crimea region, fueling a little more tension to an already terse situation on the eve of a critical referendum vote.
The drone incident was reported by various international news media, including Voice of Russia
, Agence France Presse
and the International Business Times
, and was seemingly confirmed by a Russian state arms and technology group late Saturday.
"The drone was flying at about 12,000 feet and was virtually invisible from the ground," Moscow-based Rostec said in a statement Saturday. The group also said it broke the drone's communications link to U.S. operators by using complex radio electronic technology.
Rostec also claimed that the drone was electronically forced to land in Crimea, and that it bore an identification number that indicated it belonged to the 66th American Reconnaissance Brigade based in Germany. The unit, when reached by phone from the Times, denied knowledge of any such situation.
The U.S. Department of Defense also officially denied the Russian group's claims late Saturday, saying there was "zero truth" to the report.
Saturday's claim of a U.S. drone in the area adds more tension to the escalating situation in Ukraine's Crimea region, where residents will vote on a referendum Sunday whether to break away from the country and rejoin Russia. U.S. and U.N. officials have previously stated that any such move would violate international law.
The incident also comes as the Pentagon announced that it is preparing to send a shipment of C-130 military transport aircraft to Poland. The U.S. military also said it plans to send a dozen F-16 fighter jets to Lask Air Force Base in Poland for a training exercise.
Also Saturday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russian forces are now moving to prepare for an invasion -- as Russian military forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles, took control of a village near the Crimea border. If the report is true, it would mark Russia's first military intervention outside of Crimea, where Moscow has effectively been in control for several weeks. Copyright 2014 Inergize Digital. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.