Ukraine claims that Russian drones crashed on Romanian territory

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Ukraine has claimed that at least one Russian drone fired overnight at one of its ports in the Danube delta crashed across the river into the territory of NATO member Romania, marking a potentially dangerous escalation of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour.

Romania’s Defense Ministry categorically denied the reports on Monday. Two Ukrainian officials told the Financial Times that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred, but they refused to explain why Bucharest had denied it.

The drone strikes came hours before President Vladimir Putin met his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi for talks about resuming a deal brokered by the United Nations and Ankara that would allow the export of Ukrainian grain through its Black Sea ports.

The alleged incident occurred when Russian forces bombed Ukrainian Danube ports including Izmail for the second night in a row. Ukraine’s state railways announced on Monday that it had restricted the transport of “all goods” to Izmail, illustrating how the Russian strikes are further choking Kiev’s ability to export grain to global markets.

In a Facebook post, Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, called the incident “further confirmation that Russian missile terrorism poses a significant threat not only to Ukraine, but also to the security of neighboring countries, including NATO member states.”

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Similar incidents threatened to take the war to NATO countries. Rocket fragments from suspected Russian air strikes landed in Poland last November. Ukraine has also alleged that Russia has on a few occasions launched cruise missiles over Moldova’s airspace or along the border to evade the country’s air defences.

The Romanian Ministry of Defense said, in a statement on its website, that “at no time were offensive means used…”. . . pose direct military threats to the national territory or territorial waters of Romania.”

“It is useless to deny that something fell there,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Monday, referring to “evidence” from photos and videos. He described Romania’s denial as “a tendency to try to de-escalate…”. . . So as not to be drawn into direct conflict.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said additional air defense systems and offensive weapons such as longer-range missiles from Western allies were “necessary to completely expel Russian forces from Ukrainian territory”.

Oleg Kipper, governor of Ukraine’s southern Odessa region on the northwest side of the Black Sea, said 17 attack drones were intercepted early Monday in the Izmail region “but unfortunately, there were also strikes” on warehouses, production buildings and agricultural machinery. and equipment. industrial equipment.

Tudor Cernija, mayor of the Romanian town of Siatalcioi, said there had been reports of “heavy” bombing in the Ishmael district, adding: “But regarding a drone in Romania – no, no, no. I have no knowledge at this time.”

It was not immediately clear how the incident would affect Putin’s talks with Erdogan on resuming the Black Sea grain agreement reached in July 2022. Russia withdrew from the initiative two months ago, citing unfulfilled assurances that its fertilizer exports would reach global markets. .

Since then, Kiev has tested Moscow’s blockade of its ports by unilaterally launching a sea lane for four cargo ships.

It is entirely plausible that a drone could strike Romania, said Sandu Valentin Mateo, a Romanian defense analyst, former naval commander and intelligence officer.

“Romania has tried to avoid escalation as long as there is no real threat,” Matteo said. We will be very careful and diplomatic – until the threat to our lands or waters becomes real.”

He said it was highly unlikely that the strike on Romania, if it did take place, would have been deliberate.

He added, “Russia knows that NATO will defend every inch of its territory. And Romania will not look for trouble to activate the (NATO joint defense clause) as long as it does not translate into a real threat to our people.

“Russia wouldn’t dare attack the bridge in Giurgioleti either,” he said, referring to the railway and road link across the Danube River through the Moldovan border town of Giurgioleti, which is used to export Ukrainian grain via Romania.

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