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Berlin concerned by Ukraine using Bayraktar drone, but not by Russian-separatist side using banned weapons

The D30 122-mm howitzer taken down by Ukraine’s Bayraktar drone was located 13 km from the contact line in Russian-separatist held territory. Screenshot: Euromaidan Press
Berlin concerned by Ukraine using Bayraktar drone, but not by Russian-separatist side using banned weapons
Article by: Alya Shandra

Ukraine’s use of a Turkish-made Bayraktar drone has drawn the ire of Germany’s Foreign Ministry.

Berlin is very concerned about the increase in the intensity of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, as well as the message of the General Staff of the Ukrainian army, according to which the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in response to shelling and the death of one soldier and wounding of another, used a Bayraktar-type drone,” the Ministry’s representative Andrea Zasse said at a briefing on 27 October, as reported by Ukrinform.

She noted that in recent weeks, the OSCE SMM has documented an increase in violations of the ceasefire and the use of heavy weapons, which contradicts the Minsk agreements, signed by Russia and Ukraine. In addition, the diplomat added, “drones are used by all parties, although the Minsk agreements allow it exclusively for the OSCE mission.”

Berlin calls on all parties to de-escalate. Developments in recent months and weeks show that all parties must take a more constructive approach than before in political negotiations, the spokeswoman said.

According to her, Germany and France are working hard to organize a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Normandy Four. Sassa at the same time found it difficult to answer the question about the date of the meeting. “I have nothing to say about the date of such a meeting,” she stated.

The statement has caused a diplomatic rift, with Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk telling BILD that

the Ukrainian side firmly rejects today’s warning from the Foreign Office. Ukraine has the legitimate right to self-defense if their territory is bombarded day and night with heavy Russian weapons and civilians and soldiers are killed.”

Ukraine reports first strike with Turkish Bayraktar drone

Journalist Julian Ropke has cited an OSCE document that the German government is ostensibly referring to — ceasefire support measures adopted by the Trilateral Contact Group on 23 July 2020. These ban the use of any type of drones from all sides, except for the OSCE’s.

One might argue that Ukraine violated an agreement it had signed, yet there are many issues that have fallen out of sight.

1. Ukraine tried diplomatic negotiations first, in line with the ceasefire support measures above

Specifically, it made an attempt to stop the violation by demanding the Russian-separatist side cease fire through the OSCE SMM and sent a note through diplomatic channels. After these measures were unsuccessful, the drone was sent to conduct retaliatory fire.

2. ORDLO’s use of banned weapons receive no notice from the German Foreign Ministry

The reason that Ukraine used the drone was the death of a serviceman, the wounding of another one, and the destruction of six civilian houses after the Russian-separatist forces fired from a 122mm D30 howitzer on Ukrainian positions in Hranitne.

As per the coordinates visible on the video of the strike, this howitzer was located 13.1 km from the demarcation line between Ukrainian and Russian-separatist-controlled territory.
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It is based on this line that back in 2014, when the first Minsk protocol was signed, that the sides agreed to withdraw weapons. Specifically, the follow-up memorandum of 19 September 2014 specifies that D30 howitzers were to be moved 16 km from the front within 24 hours.

This fact was stressed by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a briefing on 28 October.

“First, Ukraine did not violate anything [from the Minsk agreements]. Second, we followed the necessary communication procedures through the Joint Coordination and Control Center with the OSCE in order to exercise the right to self-defense,” Kuleba said.

He stressed that Ukraine’s partners should be primarily concerned that the drone destroyed a howitzer, which is prohibited by the Minsk agreements, that was located much closer than allowed.

“So for some reason, when a howitzer is pushed to the line of demarcation, our positions are fired on and our soldiers are killed, this fact remains without proper assessment. We communicate with German colleagues, we have no doubt that they remain principled supporters of a peaceful settlement, but any evaluations should be provided taking into account the full context of the situation. Only then, they are objective and allow the target audience to perceive the situation correctly,” the minister added.

It appears that this howitzer was located further away than was reachable by the Ukrainians’ artillery, military expert Volodymyr Zablotskyi commented to

“The strike was conducted at a target point that was beyond the reach of the firepower of [Ukrainian] infantry. Occasionally, the enemy shelled it with artillery, which traditionally was situated in a settlement. So we can assume that the enemy was deliberately counting on its impunity. Because it was exactly like that before. But suddenly everything changed. By the order of the command, strike drones were employed. There were at least two of them, one of which struck a target detected at a distance of 15 km.”

Zablotskyi notes that the strike was conducted by a high-precision laser-guided bomb, most probably by the bomb МАМ-С weighing 8.5 kg, which explains the relatively small impact of the strike. The expert states that the incident was a successful “demonstration strike” on enemy artillery positions. He stresses that the drone did not cross the demarcation line between Ukrainian and Russian-separatist territory:

“During the strike, the drone did not cross the demarcation line and was constantly over our part of Donbas. The enemy is not armed with anything like this and, moreover, has no effective means of combating such drones. As a result, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are beginning to outnumber the enemy not only by quantity but also by quality in the area of the conduction of the Operation of Joint Forces. By and large, this is a new reality on the battlefield in Donbas.”

3. Drones in Donbas have become ubiquitous

Strike drones have been used extensively by the Russian-separatist side in Donbas. Military journalist Nolan Peterson calls the prevalence of Russian drones, which carry out targeted strikes with dropped hand grenades and land mines, “the most significant change in the war” as of late. His recent frontline report mentions that the Ukrainian army has become “drone conscious” in response, employing camouflage and avoiding gathering in groups outside. It also mentions that front-line units are reportedly not allowed to fly drones past the contact line and over enemy territory.

Particularly, drones that Ukrainian soldiers have identified include a tactical drone once in the ownership of the Russian FSB, the Russian military drone Orlan-10, Granat-1, Eleron, and Zastava (produced in Russia based on an Israeli license, is a copy of the Israeli Bird Eye 400).

The reason that they have become ubiquitous is that Russia actually has no intent on resolving the conflict it is sustaining. An analysis of the evolution of the Minsk peace process, as well as leaked emails from the desk of Vladimir Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov, clearly show that Russia’s intention in the peace process is to create a zone of permanent military instability in Ukraine’s east, at least until Ukraine agrees to incorporate the Russian-run “republics” into its political fabric, thereby hosting a source of permanent political instability while footing the bill for Russia’s malign influence. Both have the goal of preventing Ukraine’s westward movement.

So, responding to a ceasefire violation that killed and wounded Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed civilian property, Ukraine conducted a high-precision strike on Russian-separatist artillery located in banned locations that spared civilians in enemy territory (and even the lives of the crew manning the unit — three are seen escaping in the video). Abiding by the Minsk protocols, had Ukraine withdrawn its artillery from its position at the frontline, which is why it could not fire back at the howitzer with artillery. Instead, it employed a high-precision drone to stop a ceasefire violation that had persisted earilier and could not be stopped diplomatically. Is this really what Germany should be condemning?

Leaked Kremlin emails show Minsk protocol designed as path to Ukraine’s capitulation – Euromaidan Press report

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