Ukraine says Russian drones crashed in Romania
Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying drones on Romanian territory during a series of strikes on a neighboring Ukrainian city.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaking at a press conference in Kyiv, stated that Ukraine possesses photographic evidence to support this assertion. In contrast, Romania has rejected Kyiv’s account of the events, and BBC Verify has been unable to authenticate the provided image.
This dispute unfolded in the midst of talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Sochi, Russia, in an effort to persuade President Vladimir Putin to reinstate the agreement that allowed Ukraine to safely export grain through the Black Sea.
President Putin insisted that the deal, abandoned by Moscow in July, would only be reinstated if the West met his demands to lift sanctions on Russian agricultural products. Nonetheless, he did announce Russia’s plans to provide free grain to six African nations, along with logistical support, free of charge.
The contentious grain deal lies at the core of the ongoing disagreement between Ukraine and Romania regarding the reported incursions of Russian drones.
Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s port facilities along the River Danube for over a month, seeking to obstruct Ukraine’s grain exports via this river route.
As most ships are now unable to access Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, it appears that Moscow aims to hinder Kyiv’s efforts to establish alternative viable transportation routes. The recent attacks on the ports of Izmail and Reni occurred within a short timeframe of each other.
Since the latest attack, something of a war of words has followed between Ukraine – which insists that one or more drones landed across the river, inside Romania – and the government in Bucharest, which says it didn’t happen.
“Of course, there is a risk, because what happened there is very close to our borders,” said Romanian Foreign Minister Luminita Odobescu.
“We have seen that Russia cynically continues to attack the civilian infrastructure, not allowing Ukraine to export their cereals.
“Of course, there is a risk of accidents or incidents, but for the time being, it was not the case.”
Mr Kuleba, sounding angry, said it was “absolutely obvious” what had happened.
He suggested that some of Ukraine’s partners were, in effect, turning a blind eye in order to avoid being involved in the conflict.
If a Russian drone did land on Romanian territory, without it being the result of an interception, then this would mark the first time Russia has directly, if accidentally, hit a Nato member state.
Last November a missile landed in Poland during a Russian air attack. Ukraine initially claimed it was a Russian missile but it was later found that this was likely to have been a Ukrainian air defence missile.
BBC Verify has been examining a still image and a video purporting to show the incident. The image was published to social media on Monday morning by Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Both the image and the video show a fireball rising over a forested riverbank at night, but the visual evidence is of very low quality, in part because it was shot in the dark, from a distance, and in part because it is low-resolution. Additionally, the video appears to have been blurred in places, obscuring certain details.
As a result, BBC Verify cannot confirm Ukraine’s claims, nor whether the explosion was caused by a drone or by something else.