Ukraine to produce Turkish armed drones (Minister)
Ukraine announced Thursday that it will build a factory to produce Turkish armed drones that Kiev had previously purchased for use against pro-Russian separatists in the east, a deal that risks angering Moscow.
“A land on which the plant will be built has already been chosen,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister said. Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
“There were a number of obstacles to the implementation (of this project) but all have been removed,” he added, without providing further details.
Cavusoglu did not speak specifically on the subject but stressed that Kiev and Ankara were “in the process of strengthening their relations in many sectors”, including defense.
At the end of September, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andriy Taran and Haluk Bayraktar – CEO of the Turkish company Baykar which produces armed drones Bayraktar – signed a memorandum to establish a joint training and maintenance center for drones in Ukraine.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said after signing the memorandum with Baykar.
“This is an important event for us,” he added, according to a press release from the presidency.
Baykar will build this center on land owned by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry near the town of Vasylkiv, located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kiev.
Ukraine has already purchased the Bayraktar TB2 drones, Baykar’s flagship model that has been used in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to media reports, Kiev plans to buy around 50 such devices.
The sale of drones to Kiev, however, places Ankara in a difficult position, with Turkey also cooperating in the field of defense with Russia, Ukraine’s rival.
The Ukrainian military has been locked in a long-standing conflict with separatist fighters in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk since 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula to Kiev.
The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the separatists, which Moscow denies.