Kiev Claims It’s Using Turkish-Made Combat Drones in Eastern Ukraine in ‘Self-Defence’
17:57 GMT 29.10.2021 (Updated: 18:40 GMT 29.10.2021)
© AP Photo / DHA A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is seen shortly after its landing at an airport in Gecitkala, known as Lefkoniko in Greek, in Cyprus, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019
© AP Photo / DHA
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military released a video showing the first combat deployment of a Turkey-bought Bayraktar drone in the Donbass. Militias in the eastern Ukrainian region broke away from Kiev in the spring of 2014 in the aftermath of a Western-backed coup in Kiev. The seven-year war has killed 13,400 people and displaced millions more.
Ukraine’s deployment of its Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is being carried out solely for defensive purposes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed.
“Ukraine protects its territory and its sovereignty in accordance with the duty and oath of everyone who serves today, who defends Ukrainian statehood. We are not executing an offensive, we are just responding,” Zelensky said, speaking to local media on Friday. His comments were published on the president’s website.
“When the Ukrainian army feels the need to defend its land, it does so. And it will further act under this principle,” the president warned.
Zelensky’s comments follow the publication of a video by the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces on Tuesday showing what it said was the first-ever combat deployment of one of its Bayraktar TB2 drones to destroy a D-30 howitzer battery used by “Russian terrorist forces” [sic] that was supposedly shelling Ukrainian forces.
Ukraine acquired 12 Bayraktar drones from Turkey in 2019, and in April 2021 the two countries announced the creation of a joint venture to produce 48 more of the UAVs.
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Russia, one of the guarantors of the Minsk ceasefire agreements alongside Germany, France, and Ukraine has expressed concern over the use of combat drones by Kiev, pointing out that doing so is illegal under the terms of the Donbass ceasefire.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was “double-checking” information regarding the drones’ deployment, and suggested that their reported use “should certainly make all those who indulge Ukraine’s capricious demands that it be admitted to NATO tomorrow think twice.”
The US Embassy in Kiev defended the drones’ deployment, releasing a statement on Friday blaming “the side supported by Russia” for repeatedly using howitzer artillery and drones against Ukrainian forces and killing a Ukrainian serviceman.
On Thursday, Laura Cooper, assistant secretary of defence for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, called on Washington’s allies to take an example from Turkey and lift restrictions on the delivery of lethal weapons to Ukraine.
The war in Donbass began in the spring of 2014, after US and European Union-backed political forces ousted Ukraine's unpopular but democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych in a coup in February of that year. The crisis led to the spontaneous formation self-defence militias of local residents in Donbass’ Donetsk and Lugansk regions concerned with the new authorities’ threats against the country’s Russian-speaking minority. These forces began making demands for regional autonomy, with some calling for the creation of separate states. Kiev responded with military force, and the conflict raged throughout the summer, fall and winter of 2014-2015, killing tens of thousands of people and prompting nearly 2.5 million residents to flee their homes (as many as one million of them to Russia, where they were accepted as refugees).
The conflict was frozen thanks to ceasefire negotiations in Minsk, Belarus in February 2015, and the Minsk protocols provided a mechanism through which Kiev could restore its control over the rebellious territories while providing the latter with constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy status. The ceasefire’s provisions, and agreements reached since ban the deployment and use of weapons in and near settlements, as well as offensive, reconnaissance and sabotage mission activities, and the use of drones, in the conflict area.
Turkey has shipped its Baryaktar TB2 drones to nearly half-a-dozen countries, including Ukraine, the Tripoli-based Libyan government, Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Qatar. Poland has ordered 24 of the drones, with the first batch expected to be delivered next year. Azerbaijan used the combat drones heavily against Armenian self-defence forces during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, with the UAVs inflicting heavy losses against Armenian defenders. As many as 7,000 people were killed and more than 140,000 were displaced in the conflict, which was halted after the deployment of about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to separate the two sides.
26 August 2021, 03:14 GMT