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Ukraine Uses Turkish Drone Against Russia-Backed Separatists For First Time


A Turkish Bayraktar drone like this one at Kyiv's Independence Day military parade in August was used to destroy a Russian-made howitzer in a separatist-controlled area.

Ukrainian government forces have used a Turkish-supplied armed drone for the first time against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, in a development condemned by the Kremlin.

The Ukrainian military posted a video on Facebook on October 26 that it said showed a Bayraktar T2B destroying a Russian-made howitzer in a separatist-controlled area.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces said the advanced drone was used “for the first time” to suppress artillery fire that killed a Ukrainian soldier and wounded another. After the strike, the shelling of Ukrainian positions stopped.

“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.

Turkey has sold Ukraine Bayraktar drones and Kyiv 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 since April 2014.

In September, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country plans to build a factory to produce the drones in cooperation with the Turkish drone maker, Baykar.

Defense Minister Andriy Taran earlier this month said a joint maintenance and training center for the drones would be established in Ukraine.

The growing defense ties between NATO member Turkey and Ukraine have been a source of tension between Ankara and Moscow, threatening to shift the balance of power on the eastern Ukrainian battlefield in Kyiv’s favor.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on October 27 that deliveries of Turkish strike drones to Ukraine could “destabilize the situation at the engagement line" in eastern Ukraine.

The Bayraktar has proven to be one of the best armed drones on the market, having been battle-tested in conflicts in Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and against Kurdish militants.

“Our air vehicles are admired all over the world,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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 brains behind the drones, is married to Erdogan’s youngest daughter.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and TASS
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