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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkey's defence exports to Kyiv up 5,000 percent

Drones, military hardware, body armour and helmets have all been used by Ukrainian forces fighting the Russian invasion
A Bayraktar drone seen during a rehearsal for the Independence Day military parade in central Kyiv, 18 August 2021 (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey’s defence industry exports to Ukraine increased 5,491 percent in the first two months of 2022 compared to last year, reaching nearly $59m, data published by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly this week shows.

Last year, during the same period, exports stood at a mere $970,000.

Ankara and Kyiv have long-standing defence cooperation ties. Ukraine has purchased more than 20 Bayraktar TB2 armed drones in recent years, with more than 16 ordered before the Russian invasion.

An Al-Monitor report in January suggested that Ukraine got a 30 percent discount for TB2 drones, paying approximately $7m for each.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced earlier this month that Kyiv has received more TB2 armed drones, without revealing the exact number. Considering the previously announced plans, Ukraine could have received at least another six drones.

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Open-source data indicates that since Reznikov’s announcement on 2 March, more cargo planes have taken off from the Turkish Balkan city of Tekirdag, where Turkish drone producer Baykar has its factory.

TB2 producer Baykar, which has close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family, was building a plant in Ukraine before the war.

However, apart from the drone sales, Turkey is also believed to be selling smart munitions to Ukraine for the drone attacks.

Open-source photographs also indicate that several bits of military equipment produced by Turkish defence companies have been incorporated into Ukrainian armoured vehicles and used by troops for communications.

Last month, the Ukrainian government also asked to buy more hardware from Turkey, including body armour and helmets that have been hard to source from other Nato countries.

Ukrainian soldiers have been spotted several times wearing Turkish-made helmets in different parts of the country.

Turkish defence company Aselsan last year signed a deal to modernise Ukrainian air defence systems. 

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Despite the substantial defence and trade ties with Ukraine, Ankara has been walking a fine line since the Russian invasion. It has silently continued to supply drones to Ukraine but also avoided imposing sanctions against Moscow.

Ankara has, however, closed passage to the Black Sea to all warships, a legally questionable step under the Montreux Convention that regulates the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.

Erdogan has repeatedly criticised Russia for invading Ukraine, but also made clear that he wants communication channels to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to remain open.

No country provides more tourists to Turkey than Russia, with Russians making up 20 percent of total visitor numbers in 2021. Ukraine comes in third.

Meanwhile, Turkey imported nearly 34 percent of its gas from Russia, its top supplier, in 2020.

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