MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday that its fears about Turkey’s decision to sell strike drones to Ukraine were being realised and that the Turkish drones risked destabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was commenting on the deployment by Ukrainian government forces of a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone to strike a position in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists. “We have really good ties with Turkey, but in this situation our fears are unfortunately being realised that the deliveries of these types of weapons to the Ukrainian military can potentially destabilise the situation on the line of contact,” Peskov told reporters.
Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government troops in Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, soon after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine. Kyiv says at least 14,000 people have been killed. Ukraine has bought sophisticated Turkish drones to boost its military and has struck a deal with Ankara to produce the same drones at a factory close to Kyiv, the capital.
The drone issue is one of several straining ties between Turkey and Russia even though the two countries enjoy close ties in other areas. “We see that as soon as such weapons fall into the hands of the (Ukrainian) military, they can potentially be used in this (eastern) region of Ukraine, and this leads to destabilisation,” Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said.
“This does not contribute to the settlement of this internal Ukrainian problem.” The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said it had deployed the drone to force pro-Russian separatists to cease fire on Tuesday. It said the drone had destroyed an artillery unit belonging to pro-Russian separatists using a guided bomb. It said the drone had not crossed the line of contact between the two warring sides.
Ukraine gets military backing from the United States and other NATO countries. Turkey, a NATO member, has criticised Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and voiced support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Turkey, which faces Ukraine and Russia across the Black Sea, has nonetheless forged close ties with Moscow in the fields of defence and energy.