Turkish drones to strengthen Ukraine’s military power - Ukrainian FM

Ukraine’s import of armed drones from Turkey will enhance the country’s military power, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday according to pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper. 

Kuleba made the remarks during the Antalya Diplomatic Forum, which kicked off for the first time on Friday, drawing diplomats and other officials from across the world. 

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the forum, Kuleba explained that his country had two goals that it considered strategic when it came to Turkish drones; localised production and drones that operate with Ukrainian engines. 

Kuleba attended a panel titled "Energy: what future awaits us?", but he spoke on a number of additional topics at the event including Ukraine’s drone imports from Turkey, the annexation of Crimea, and its relationship with NATO. 

Kuleba explained that Ukraine’s decision to purchase Bayraktar TB-2 drones from Turkey was a means of enhancing its defence against aggression from Russia. The two former Soviet states have been locked on opposite sides of an insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region where pro-Moscow separatists control the border between them. 

Asked specifically why the need for drones from Turkey, Kuleba praised the platform’s proven effectiveness and thanked Turkey for its support in the face of Russian pressure. 

“Because Turkish drones are very good. Because Turkey did not lean under the pressure of Russia,’’ the minister said. “Because Turkey is a country that respects itself and is respected by other countries, and we made a good deal beneficial for both sides’’.

Russia has made clear its opposition to the defence relationship between Turkey and Ukraine. Amidst tensions in March and April over Russian military exercises opposite the Donbass, the Russia warned Turkey against encouraging “militarist tendencies” in Ukraine with its arms sales and it later announced a “review” on defence cooperation with Turkey. 

Ukraine currently operates 12 TB-2 Bayraktar armed drones. Kuleba described the drones’ purpose as purely defensive when asked if they would be used to attack separatist positions in the Donbass. 

Turkey’s drones won acclaim on the world arms market after demonstrating considerable success against Russian equipment in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh last year. 

At the forum, Kuleba extended more praise to Turkey for its continued opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its support for the “Crimean Platform”. He also singled out Turkish support to the Crimean Tatars, a Turkic-minority living in the peninsula that has come under pressure throughout the Russian occupation. 

“I don't think there are more closer friends on Crimea, than Ukraine and Turkey,” said Kuleba. 

“We are two nations who care for this piece of land, care for people who leave them historically, for Crimean Tatars, for their culture, for their nation.”

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