Ukraine praises role of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones against Russian military hardware
Ukraine claims its Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones have destroyed numerous Russian armored vehicles, missile systems and trucks.
The drones have repeatedly destroyed Russian hardware in conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya and Syria in recent years.
Vasyl Bodnar, the Ukrainian ambassador to Ankara, has tweeted several images of explosions which he has attributed to the Turkish drones. One message read, “Bayraktar — Mashallah [God be praised]”, along with several emojis.
The role of the Istanbul-based firm, Baykar, and its drones in Ukraine is apparently straining the complicated relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
“These TB2 strikes are, in comparison to ground combat, relatively small in number, but important for Ukrainian morale precisely because it shows Russia does not control the skies,” said Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
It is challenging to confirm the Ukrainian claims of Russian losses but some analysts appear convinced that on February 26, missiles from a Turkish drone hit a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile arsenal and a supply convoy, according to Arda Mevlutoglu, a Turkish aviation observer in Ankara.
Satellite pictures show an explosion at the site where the Ukrainian authorities claim the attack took place, he told Bloomberg.
“Ukraine appears to be successfully using surviving Bayraktar TB2 drones against Russian military assets, once again proving its efficiency in combat,” said Mevlutoglu.
The drones came to international prominence when they were credited with crushing Armenia’s armed forces and their Russian vehicles in Nagorno-Karabakh when used by Azerbaijan’s armed forces to break the decades-long deadlock in the mountainous enclave in the 44-day war that began in September 2020.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin claims to have destroyed at least four Bayraktars and the base from where they are launched.
A Turkish government source said Ankara’s dealings with Ukraine provided Erdogan with leverage with Russia in conflicts in Africa, West Asia and the Caucasus.
Turkey has avoided publicising the role its military exports have played against Russian hardware in an apparent attempt not to damage economic ties or face a military reaction in various conflict zones, especially Syria, where large numbers of Turkish troops are deployed.
Bilateral ties have improved since a Russian fighter jet was shot down by the Turkish armed forces near the Syrian border. Putin was the first foreign leader to congratulate Erdogan for surviving the bungled 2016 coup but the relationship remains complex.
Russia now provides more than half of Turkey’s gas since the opening of the TurkStream pipeline under the Black Sea in January 2020 and is building a nuclear reactor on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. Russian tourists provide a major source of Turkish income.
Turkey has been reluctant to hail the impact of its Bayraktar TB2 drones against Russian military assets. Picture credit: YouTube