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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkey says drones to Ukraine are sales not aid

Turkish deputy foreign minister says TB2s, which have proved effective against Russian forces in the country, are 'not help from Turkey' but part of a private deal
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone, pictured, here have played a decisive role in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh (AFP)

Turkey's drone shipments to Ukraine are part of a private sale, not military aid, a deputy Turkish foreign minister told a pro-government newspaper on Thursday, underscoring Ankara's effort to avoid offending Moscow amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Turkey shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine and has good ties with both. It has criticised the invasion as unacceptable, but has avoided the harsher rhetoric of other Nato members and opposes their use of sanctions.

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Turkey cooperates closely with Russia in energy, trade and defence. It has also sold Bayraktar TB-2 combat drones to Kyiv and signed a deal to co-produce more during a visit there last month by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, angering Moscow. 

While TB2s have appeared to play decisive roles in recent years in conflicts in LibyaSyria and Nagorno-Karabakh, many experts have questioned how effective they would truly be against a serious military power.

But footage released by the Ukrainian military following Russia's invasion showed the TB2s holding their own against long Russian military columns near Kyiv. 

On Wednesday, Ukraine's defence minister said in a Facebook post that the country had received a fresh shipment of the armed drones. “They are ready for combat,” Oleksii Reznikov said without elaborating. 

Now Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran has said in a Thursday interview with Daily Sabah that Kyiv purchased the drones from Baykar, a private Turkish defence company, stressing this did not represent an agreement between the nations.

'This is not help from Turkey. These are products Ukraine bought from a Turkish company'

- Yavuz Selim Kiran, Turkish deputy foreign minister

"Ukraine wanted to buy this product from our firm, and they made a strong deal among themselves," Kiran is reported to have said.

"This is not help from Turkey. These are products Ukraine bought from a Turkish company. Of course, we are proud of these products."

Russia has previously raised concerns with Turkey over Ukraine's use of the drones in the country's east, but Ankara says it is not responsible for what buyers do. 

Turkey - also heavily reliant on Russian tourists - this week closed its straits linking the Mediterranean and Black Seas to all military traffic under a 1936 pact, allowing it to limit passage of some Russian warships.

Highlighting its tough balance, Turkey abstained from a vote to suspend Moscow's membership in the Council of Europe. Yet on Monday at the UN General Assembly special session on the Ukraine war, it slammed Russia's invasion and called for countries to defend the Ukrainian people.