Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has posted a footage of a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 drone delivering a precision attack and destroying an artillery piece held by Russian-backed separatist insurgents in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The Turkish-supplied Bayraktar TB2 combat drone was used to attack and destroy a hostile artillery unit that was responsible for shelling the village of Hranitne, Mil.in.ua has reported, citing Roman Donik, a volunteer for the Ukrainian army.
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The Bayraktar TB2 was able to detect, track down and destroy a 122mm D-30 howitzer deployed south of the insurgent held village of Boykivske (f.k.a. Telmanovo), the report says.
The drone attack was delivered from a distance of 15+ kilometers from the target area in order to prevent collateral damage among civilians and soldiers.
“In retaliation and to save soldier and civilian lives, a Bayraktar UAV took to the air, a [hostile] battery was spotted, and the artillery gun was destroyed with a missile,” the volunteer was quoted as saying.
Russia responded by accusing Ukraine of violating the Minsk peace accords and destabilizing the situation in the war-torn Donbas region.
“I would like to mention once again that the conflict in southeastern Ukraine has no military solution, as was acknowledged by all those countries that so much fret over civilians and, generally, the situation in Ukraine. The attempts to settle it by force will have very deplorable and somewhat incalculable but generally tragic consequences,” said Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
On October 28, Alexander Lukashevich, Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), condemned the use of the drone.
"The use of such vehicles is banned by the Minsk Agreements,” the Russian state news agency TASS quote him as saying. “Also, flights of any type of drone, except OSCE Special Monitoring Mission drones, are prohibited by the measures on reinforcement of the ceasefire regime."
Those claims are false. The Minsk II protocols, which were first signed in 2015 with the aim of ending the conflict, do not ban the use of drones, which have been used frequently by both sides.
The protocols call for the removal of heavy weapons from the line of contact, meaning weapons of any caliber over 100mm, as well as rocket artillery systems. The D-30 howitzer destroyed by the TB2 drone is a 122mm weapon.
According to the October 26 statement by Ukraine’s General Staff, Ukrainian forces in the area where the incident occurred had come under fire from the D-30 battery, wounding two Ukrainian soldiers, one of whom later died. The statement claims that Ukrainian forces’ demand for a ceasefire, transmitted via the OSCE observers and diplomatic channels, went unheeded.
The OSCE SMM’s daily report for October 26 did not mention the drone strike, but cited 205 ceasefire violations, including 31 explosions, in the Donetsk oblast, the region where the drone strike took place and the howitzer was located.
Lukashevich’s claim that only OSCE SMM drones are permitted to fly in the conflict zone is misleading, given that SMM drones have been targeted by groundfire and electronic jamming in territory not controlled by Ukraine’s government. The OSCE SMM’s October 26 report recorded several such incidents.
The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said it had deployed the drone to force Russian-controlled separatists into cease-fire and the drone had not crossed the officially-delineated line of contact between the government and separatist forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for his part, has said that Ukraine's use of Turkish-supplied strike drones in the conflict in the eastern Donbas region was defensive and did not violate any agreements.
"When the Ukrainian army feels the need to defend its land, it does so," Zelenskiy said in his comments published on the presidential website.
The Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish-made strike drone with a 150 km-range capability, an operating speed of 130 km/h and a 50 kg payload. It is furnished with an automatic take-off and landing system.
In 2019, Ukraine purchased six Bayraktar TB2 system units produced by Baykar Defence, to the value of $69 million.