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Russia ‘upset’ with Turkey over drones sales to Ukraine, lodges complaint

A Bayraktar drone is seen during a rehearsal for the Independence Day military parade in central Kiev, Ukraine, August 18, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia has lodged a complaint with Ankara over its sale of armed drones to Ukraine as Moscow’s military operation in the former Soviet republic enters its seventh week.  

A top Turkish bureaucrat, speaking at a meeting with foreign media on Friday, said the sale of Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine was by a private Turkish company and not part of state-to-state deals.

"Russians are upset and from time to time they are complaining about the drone sales. They used to complain and they are complaining right now," the unnamed bureaucrat was quoted as saying.

"But we have already given the answer ... that these are private companies and these drone purchases had been done before the war as well."

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2, with a length of only 6.2 meters and a wingspan of 12 meters, is seven times lighter than the MQ-9 Reaper drone used by the US military.

Manufactured by Baykar Makina Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş, it has 150kg of payload, with the ability to cruise at around 130 km/h and reach a maximum speed of 220 km/h.

The drone holds the Turkish aviation record for endurance (27 hours) and maximum altitude (25,000 feet).

Turkey, which has close ties with Russia in the areas of energy, defense, and trade, had sold Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Kiev despite Moscow’s objections and also entered into a deal to co-produce more drones before the crisis unfolded in late February.

A NATO member country, which shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has taken a mediating role to end the simmering conflict between the two neighbors by hosting peace talks.

The talks have made progress, according to the parties, but the breakthrough has been eluding.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, predominantly populated by ethnic Russians.

The US and its European allies have dubbed the military operation as “Putin’s land grab,” imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

Russia, however, has stressed that it will halt the operation if Kiev meets Russia’s demands, including abandoning the ambitious bid for membership in the NATO military alliance.

Moscow shuts down Amnesty, Human Rights Watch in Russia

The Russian government announced on Friday that it was closing the local offices of rights watchdogs, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), after 30 years.

Russia’s Justice Ministry said in a statement that a total of 15 organizations had been taken off Russia’s registry of international organizations and foreign NGOs due to “violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation”, without providing further details.

HRW has been operating in Russia for 30 years, while AI has had its operations in the country since 1993.

The announcement came days after New York-based HRW claimed that it had found "several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations" in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed allegations of war crimes by Ukraine and its Western allies during its six-week-long military operation in the former Soviet republic and denies targeting civilians.

The UN General Assembly voted on Thursday to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over claims of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.

The resolution, proposed by the US, received 93 votes, with 24 members opposed and 58 abstaining.

The decision, which bars Moscow from voting at the council, makes Moscow the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ever have its membership revoked from any UN body.

 Moscow denounced the UNGA decision and rejected accusations of human rights violations against it as “Western propaganda”.

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