Ukraine set to get Turkish military drones

The use of Turkish-made drones in Ukraine has previously been a sore point in relations between Ankara and Moscow

Scores of Turkish military drones could soon be produced in Ukraine and deployed in the skies close to Russia, Ukraine’s defense minister has announced, with the two sides said to be ready to sign a manufacturing deal in Kiev.

Speaking during a briefing on Thursday, Aleksey Reznikov revealed that “there are plans to sign a framework agreement on cooperation in the sphere of military technologies” between the two states.

“One of the points of this agreement will be the construction of the Bayraktar plant – these unmanned aerial vehicles will be manufactured in Ukraine,” the defense chief disclosed, adding that after the agreement has been signed, it will be sent to the country’s parliament for ratification.

Kiev will also set up a special training center where operators will be instructed on how to use the equipment, according to Reznikov.

Speaking to Bloomberg late on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said that military cooperation between Ankara and Ukraine is not intended to drive confrontation with Moscow.

We’re not signing agreements for collaboration to target another country. Russia is among the first states to know that,” he said. “The deals we have made and the ones we’ll clinch with Ukraine aren’t directly linked to the current crisis.”

Erdogan, who has said he hopes to play the role of a mediator between the two states, is visiting Ukraine as tensions run high in Europe. Western leaders have repeatedly sounded the alarm in recent months that Russian troops are amassing at the shared border ahead of an incursion. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied such accusations.

Ankara enjoys good relations with both Kiev and Moscow. However, Erdogan has openly opposed the 2014 Russian reabsorption of Crimea, describing it as an “annexation” of the region. The move came following a referendum after violent street protests ousted the elected government, and the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Eastern Ukraine declared their autonomy from Kiev.

Ukraine’s purported use of Turkish-made drones in the Donbass has also been a point of contention for Moscow. During a phone call between Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin in December, the Russian leader poured scorn on the “destructive” behavior and “provocative activity” of their use in the war-torn region.

In October, Kiev’s army announced it had successfully fired a missile from a Turkish Bayraktar drone in the Donbass, which it claims was for the first time ever. The move was condemned as violating a ceasefire agreed in July that specifically banned the use of drones near the line of contact.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that it did not violate any accords, and argued that when the country’s army “feels the need to defend its land, it does so.”

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