Zelensky ‘Begs For Peace’ As Russia Cripples Ukraine; Shoots-Down Its Most Sophisticated Bayraktar TB2 Drones — Reports

After a fiery address, Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine and made swift inroads in the face of mounting global condemnation. Now, the Ukrainian president appears to have conceded.

Russian forces began standoff missile assaults against command and control facilities, air defense installations, airbases, and other vital targets in an attempt to weaken Ukraine’s defense. According to Ukraine’s border guards, Russia broke into the territory north of Kyiv, launching Grad multi-barrel rockets on government positions.

Ukraine admitted to having deployed the Bayraktar TB2 drones that it purchased from Turkey starting in 2019. At least some of Ukraine’s TB2 armed unmanned aircraft are still being used against invading forces, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

As the air combat component of this bigger conflict continues, some of the Russian News Agencies including Sputnik reported shooting down of many TB2s without furnishing any further information. Most of the Tweets have been removed citing violation of Twitter rules.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (via Twitter)

Further, the Luhansk People’s Republic, which was recently recognized by the Russian President along with Donetsk People’s Republic, announced on Twitter that it had shot down two Bayraktar TB2 drones near Schastia. Even before Russia launched an invasion, these two breakaway regions of Ukraine have been battling Kyiv’s military.

NATO member Turkey and its Black Sea partner Ukraine agreed earlier this month to coproduce an increasingly popular Turkish-made drone at a Ukrainian manufacturing facility.

In 2019, Baykar Makina, a privately held Turkish drone manufacturer, was awarded a contract to deliver six Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Ukraine. The $69-million deal also included the sale of ammunition for the aircraft’s armed version. The Ukrainian government declared in September that it would purchase 24 more Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles in the following months.

Moscow had previously expressed displeasure with Ukrainian forces’ use of the TB2 against Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine. The use of Turkish drones elicited strong condemnation from Moscow, with Putin telling Erdogan in a December phone call that Ankara was engaging in “provocative” and “destructive” action.

However, Erdogan vowed that Turkey was “willing to undertake its part in order to end the crisis between the two nations that are its neighbors in the Black Sea”. Turkey cooperates with Russia in war-torn Syria and has also purchased the S-400 defense system from Russia despite the US sanctions.

Bayraktar TB2 Drones

The TB2 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operates as a platform for undertaking reconnaissance and intelligence operations.

Because of their modest flight speeds, the drones can hover in the air for hours, focusing on details that reconnaissance planes would miss. They can return to base quickly for refueling and rearmament, and be back over the target area in a few hours because of their short range.

File:Bayraktar Akıncı UCAV.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
File Image: Bayraktar Drone

Multiple drones can be flown at the same time, providing a near-constant presence throughout the battlespace and making surprise tactics by one’s opponent far less likely to work.

The TB2’s engagement in three recent conflicts – western Libya, northern Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh – demonstrated their transition from being a counter-terrorism tool to battlefield armament. In the war against Tigray forces, these drones have been essential, as previously stated by the EurAsian Times. It is yet to be seen how effective they could be in the latest operations against Russian forces.

Ukraine ‘Shoots-Down’ Russian Aircraft

Ukrainian soldiers claimed to have shot down a Russian Il-76 airlifter flying near Kiev. The heavy-duty aircraft is used for transport and paratrooper ops, while other derivatives can also be used for aerial refueling and as an early warning aircraft.

Earlier, the Ukrainian military claimed to have shot down five Russian fighter jets and helicopters in the eastern region.

“The combined forces give a worthy rebuff to the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Military units in their positions. The enemy suffers losses,” the Ukrainian military claimed. However, Russia has categorically denied these claims.

A multi-pronged ground offensive is being launched from Ukraine’s northeastern border with Russia, as well as from Crimea to the south and Belarus to the north. There has been concern that such a multi-directional onslaught could trap Ukrainian forces in the east, cutting off their supply lines from the west and leaving Kyiv open to sacking from the north.

Ready For Peace Talks

Earlier, President Zelensky stated that the government is providing weapons to everyone who is capable and ready to use them. He urged all Ukrainians to fight for their homeland.

He also urged firms to continue supplying Ukrainians with goods. According to Zelensky, Ukraine has now formally cut all ties with Russia, declaring that Russia has attacked Ukraine in the same way that Nazi Germany did during World War II.

Zelensky claimed that Russia has deployed around 200,000 troops and tens of thousands of military vehicles to Ukraine’s borders in preparation for the invasion on February 24.

Now, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s press secretary Sergii Nykyforov said that Ukraine and Russia are currently discussing a date and a place of possible negotiations, with Kiev being ready to speak about the cessation of hostilities and peace.

“I must refute claims that we have abandoned negotiations. Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and about peace. This is our permanent position. We have agreed to the proposal of the president of the Russian Federation. Right now, the parties are consulting on the place and time of the negotiating process. The sooner negotiations begin, the more chances there will be to resume normal life,” Nykyforov said, as quoted by the UNIAN news agency.

The adviser of the head of Zelenskyy’s office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that Zelenskyy and Putin could discuss the possible neutral status of Ukraine.

s-400 Missile
File Image: S-400 Missile

“This will be primarily a detailed discussion of peace and cessation of hostilities. A neutral status with a clear package of security guarantees are an option that may also be on the table,” Podolyak told the UNIAN news agency.

Earlier, during a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Zelensky requested Jerusalem to serve as a mediator with Russia to help resolve the military conflict.

The request was confirmed to The New York Times by Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk. He said –  “We do believe that Israel is the only democratic state in the world that has great relations with both Ukraine and Russia.”

File Image: Naftali_Bennett and Vladimir Putin

Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard forces were the first to face the Russian wrath. Ukrainian forces then claimed that Russian military vehicles had crossed the border at Kharkiv in the north, Luhansk in the east, Russian-annexed Crimea in the south, and Belarus as well. Belarus’ autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko, stated that his country’s military was not involved, but could be if necessary.

Later, Russian tanks were observed on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city with a population of 1.4 million people. The Russian military is also said to have arrived by water in Ukraine’s key port cities of Odesa in the Black Sea and Mariupol in the Azov Sea.

The conflict looks to be concentrated in the east. Residents of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, claim that repeated explosions shook windows in apartment blocks. However, clashes have also occurred in the north, near Kyiv, and in the south, near the ports of Odesa and Mariupol.

The Ukrainian army reported the Boryspil international airport in Kyiv, as well as military headquarters and stockpiles in the major cities of Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Mariupol, had been bombarded. According to Ukrainian officials, Russian helicopters attacked Antonov International Airport, a military airport in Hostomel, near the capital Kyiv. The Russian military has taken control of the airport, according to the Interior Ministry.