Putin aide says Moscow will destroy 'Turkish drone factory in Ukraine'
Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists on Tuesday that if a production plant for Turkish Bayraktar drones was established in Ukraine, then it "will immediately fall under demilitarization", according to the Kremlin's news agency TASS.
The threat followed comments from the Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, who claimed Turkish defence company Baykar was registered in the country and had purchased a plot of land for the factory.
"The fact of creating such an object, which, of course, will immediately fall under the topic of demilitarisation, must be understood," said Peskov.
The Russian press secretary added: "It will probably only prolong the suffering of Ukrainians, but will not help to avoid what is the goal of a special military operation."
Moscow invaded Ukraine on 24 February and has since referred to the war as a "special military operation" to justify its unprovoked act of military aggression. Russia has seized several Ukrainian cities and forced millions of Ukrainian to flee their homes.
Ambassador Bodnar told RBC Ukraine that the drone "factory will be built" following ratification from Kyiv’s parliament.
The envoy stressed that the decision was not political but practical "since a significant part of the models...produced at this plant will have components of Ukrainian production", according to the local outlet.
Turkish Bayraktar drones have proved to be a vital weapon for Kyiv as it defends itself against Russian artillery and tanks.
The CEO of Turkey’s Baykar Defence, Haluk Bayraktar, previously ruled out supplying Moscow with the lauded weaponry, saying his company firmly supports Ukrainian sovereignty and independence.
Instead, the Kremlin has turned to Iran to acquire drones, with reports from CNN on Wednesday saying Russian officials have begun training in the country.
Ankara, meanwhile, has adopted an official position of neutrality between Russia and Ukraine, offering itself as a mediator in crucial negotiations over grain shipments and peace talks.