The Kremlin on October 27 said that Turkish drones sold to Kyiv risk destabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine after the Ukrainian military posted a video on Facebook showing a Bayraktar T2B destroying a Russian-made howitzer in a separatist-controlled area.
It was the first time that Ukrainian government forces had used one of their newly supplied Turkish armed drones against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’s fears over Ankara’s decision to sell the drones to Ukraine were being realised. Kyiv has plans to buy dozens more to deploy to eastern Ukraine, where Russia has backed separatist forces in a seven-year war that has killed more than 13,200 people.
The Bayraktar T2B sprang to prominence in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War fought by Azerbaijan and Armenia last year. Azerbaijan won a decisive victory, with drones supplied by Turkey and Israel seen as crucial to its battlefield dominance. Some defence commentators have described Turkey’s combat drones as relatively cheap but as also often devastatingly effective.
Describing their use of the drone in eastern Ukraine, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it was used to suppress artillery fire that killed a Ukrainian soldier and wounded another. After the strike, the shelling of Ukrainian positions stopped, it added.
“The unmanned aerial vehicle did not cross the line of contact and destroyed with a guided bomb one artillery piece with a crew of Russian occupation forces,” the military said in a statement.
In September, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country planned to build a factory to produce the drones in cooperation with the Turkish drone maker, Baykar. Defence Minister Andriy Taran earlier this month said a joint maintenance and training center for the drones would be established in Ukraine.
The growing defence ties between Nato member Turkey and Ukraine have been a source of growing tension between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey and Russia find themselves backing opposing forces in various countries, including Syria and Libya, but at the same time maintain a transactional relationship that means relatively warm ties and the possibility of defence deals, such as Russia’s sale of S-400 missile defence systems to Turkey.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on October 27 that deliveries of Turkish strike drones to Ukraine could “destabilise the situation at the engagement line" in eastern Ukraine.
Defence analysts have also said that as time goes by technologies, such as jamming devices, that can “drop” unsophisticated drones out of the sky will be perfected but for now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not short on hyperbole when it comes to Turkey’s arsenal of combat drones.
“Our air vehicles are admired all over the world,” he said in January. “Turkish armed drones are changing the methods of war.”
Baykar is owned by the three Bayraktar brothers. Selcuk Bayraktar, considered the engineering mastermind behind the drones, is married to Erdogan’s youngest daughter.