Ukraine to produce Turkish armed drones: minister

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Ukraine on Thursday said it will build a factory to produce Turkish armed drones that Kiev previously bought to use against pro-Russian separatists in the east, a deal that risks irritating Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.

“A land plot on which the factory will be built has already been chosen,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference with Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“There were a number of obstacles to the implementation (of this project) but all of them have been removed,” he added, without providing further details.

Çavuşoğlu did not speak specifically about the subject but stressed that Kiev and Ankara were “in the process of strengthening their relations in many sectors”, including defense.

In late September, Ukrainian defense minister Andriy Taran and Haluk Bayraktar — CEO of the Turkish company Baykar that produces Bayraktar armed drones — signed a memorandum to establish a joint training and maintenance center for the drones in Ukraine.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the signing of the memorandum with Baykar.

“This is an important event for us,” he added, according to a statement from the presidency.

Baykar will build this center on the land that belongs to Ukraine’s defense ministry near the town of Vasylkiv, located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kiev.

Ukraine has previously purchased the Bayraktar TB2 drones, Baykar’s flagship model that has been used in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to media reports, Kiev plans to purchase around 50 such devices.

The sale of drones to Kiev, however, places Ankara in a delicate position, as Turkey also cooperates in the defense sector with Russia, Ukraine’s rival.

The Ukrainian army has been locked in a long-running conflict with separatist fighters in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014 after Moscow annexed the peninsula of Crimea from Kiev.

The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, which Moscow denies.

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