Turkish-made Bayraktar armed drones deployed by the Ukrainian army to destroy Russian military targets in the recent conflict were apparently operated by Turkish personnel provided by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the disposal of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government in Kyiv.
The video, initially shared by Valeriy Zaluzny, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Army, on a verified Facebook account on March 13, 2022 and ten circulated all over social media platforms, purportedly reveals a background conversation in Turkish, most likely coming from Turkish operators who directed the armed drone from a base station to drop a bomb on alleged Russian artillery fire control point, without mentioning the location.
The words such as “Nice, very good like this…Halt it like that…OK, guys, this is much better…We deploy it [now],” in Turkish can be heard in the background embedded to the video footage. The footage reveals that a man in a commanding position and talking in Turkish was heard giving instructions to an operator, also a Turkish, and making comments on positioning drone and ordering for the deployment of the bomb.
It is not surprising to see Turkish operators taking the lead in the use of Bayraktar drones as the Ukrainian military might not have attained the necessary capabilities to operate the drones or lack the skills to address technical issues when they arise on the field given the fact that Ukraine has relatively recently obtained Turkish drones and requires technical assistance from Turkey.
If the video and the sound are authentic, this might be the first evidence that confirms Turkey’s direct involvement in the Russian Ukrainian war and how it is actively working to hammer down invading Russian forces in Ukrainian territory.
Both the deployment of drones and personnel abroad requires the permission of the Turkish government and must be cleared by both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry in Ankara.
Nordic Monitor previously reported that the owners of Turkey’s Baykar Makina, which produces Bayraktar TB2 military drones, openly announced their strong support for Ukraine on February 25.
Selçuk Bayraktar, the CEO and one of the owners of the company and Turkish President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, tweeted that he condemns in the strongest terms the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which is disregarding the sovereignty of an independent nation. Selçuk also expressed his support for “Ukraine and Crimea, the homeland of our Turkish brothers resisting the occupation.”
More strong support for Ukraine came from Selçuk’s brother. Haluk Bayraktar, who was overseeing company projects related to Ukraine, tweeted in Turkish and Ukrainian that he “stands with the honorable people of friendly Ukraine, which has been brutally occupied before the eyes of the entire world.” Haluk also warned that “If not prevented, the war will knock on every door tomorrow,” adding, “The whole world must act before it’s too late to protect innocent civilians.”
Baykar has been selling military drones to Ukraine since 2019. The trade, which started with six TB2 models Bayraktar UAVs, continued with the delivery of an additional five to the Ukrainian Navy last year. Military experts claim that Turkey has sold more UAVs to Ukraine than announced.
Valeriy Zaluzny announced last year that they had 12 TB2s in their inventory. According to news reports published by media outlets close to the Turkish government, Ukraine wants to increase its number of UAVs to 48.
Under a new agreement signed during Erdoğan’s official visit to Kyiv in February 2022, Ukraine would allocate land for the Bayraktar TB2 UAV production facility for 49 years and provide a number of incentives. Parts and materials used in the production of the UAVs will be exempted from customs duties. All financial and personnel information regarding the new facility would be kept confidential.
In addition to the UAV factory, a training center would also be built. Baykar would be exempt from income tax for 10 years due to its investments. The expiration of the agreement is January 1, 2035.
For Baykar, which currently uses engines from Ukrainian companies Ivchenko-Progress and Motor Sich in the military drones they produce, the production facility in Ukraine would also provide convenience in terms of logistics and time.
In January Baykar announced that the company had recently signed the first export contract for the state-of-the-art unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) Bayraktar Akıncı, one of the company’s newest products. The announcement, which did not reveal the country to which it was sold, emphasized that delivery would take place in 2023. Defense industry experts stated that the sale was made to Ukraine, but due to current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the name of the country was deliberately not disclosed.
How the agreement will be implemented due to the war conditions is unclear at the moment.
Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine often mention Bayraktar drones in the war of propaganda. While the Russian army provides news about Bayraktar drones allegedly shot down, Ukrainians broadcast satellite videos of Russian convoys shot down using Bayraktars. So far, there has been no impartial information to prove the claims of the two sides.