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Erdoğan-backed drone company that angered Russians in Donbas opens production plant in Ukraine

Levent Kenez/Stockholm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week paid a one-day visit to Ukraine, which is about to be invaded by Russia, signing a number of bilateral agreements and further developing relations between the two countries .

Undoubtedly, the most important was the framework agreement for cooperation in the fields of high technology, aviation and space, which seems like a routine agreement for many, but not for experts in the field. arms industry.

Shortly after the signing ceremony, Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar Makina, which produces the Bayraktar TB2 military drones used by the Ukrainian military, expressed his gratitude on Twitter with messages in Turkish and Ukrainian.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov (second R) and Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank (second L) signed a framework agreement on cooperation in the fields of high technology on February 3, 2022, aviation and space.

Thanking Erdoğan – who chose his words carefully during a joint press conference so as not to irritate Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is due to visit Ankara soon – for his efforts as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia’s Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the deal would expand Baykar Makina’s production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Ukraine.

Baykar Makina is a family business in which Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk, Haluk’s brother, is also a partner, whose products Erdoğan carries out intense diplomacy to sell during all his official visits.

The Baykar of Selçuk not only takes advantage of all state facilities, but also makes high profits in the local and international market with the sale of weapons, for which the sole decision maker is his father-in-law. An important reason for choosing Turkish drones is that Turkey does not have a lengthy export approval process, unlike the United States and the European Union.

Baykar has been selling military drones to Ukraine since 2019. The trade, which began with six Bayraktar Model TB2 drones, continued with the delivery of five more drones to the Ukrainian Navy last year. Military experts say Turkey has sold more drones to Ukraine than advertised.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army, Valeriy Zaluzny, announced last year that they had 12 TB2s in their inventory. According to information published by media close to the Turkish government, Ukraine wants to increase its number of drones to 48.

Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Rear Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa and Haluk Bayraktar (R)

Turkey’s sale of military drones to Ukraine sparked tensions with Russia last October. Ukrainian state television broadcast a video showing a Turkish-made military drone being used against Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region on October 23, 2021.

The Kremlin said the next day that its fears over Turkey’s decision to sell strike drones to Ukraine were coming true and that Turkish drones risked destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine, while the President Zelensky told the press that the use of Turkish strike drones in the Donbass conflict was defensive and did not violate any agreement.

However, Turkey says it has no responsibility for how the drones it sells are used. “If a country buys them from us, they are no longer Turkish,” Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu told reporters after meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the G20 summit in Rome in November 2021.

“Maybe Turkey produced it, but it belongs to Ukraine,” he said. Nevertheless, he also called on Ukrainian authorities to stop referring to Turkish drones or Turkey when talking about drones.

Response to questions from legislators from the Parliamentary Planning and Budget Committee on November 4, 2021, Çavuşoğlu noted Turkey encounters Russian-made weapons in its fight against hostile groups in various places and has defended the sale of drones to Ukraine, referring to Russian weapons found in the hands of anti-Turkish groups ranging from the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK) to the Libyan party. National Army (LNA) and Armenian militia in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russian planes target Bayraktar at 01:05 seconds into the video.

However, the Russians used an interesting method to show how serious they are, using Bayraktar Akıncı TİHA (attack unmanned aerial vehicles) as the target aircraft in a promotional video for the SU-75 Checkmate fighter jet. fifth generation, which was presented at the Dubai Airshow on November 16, 2021.

The Russians had taken the Bayraktar drone, shot down in Libya, to Russia to exam. According to Russian sources, 15 Bayraktar drones were shot down by Armenians during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in 2020.

The Turkish drone Bayraktar was reportedly shot down in Libya and taken to Russia for inspection.

Under the new agreement, Ukraine will allocate land for the Bayraktar TB2 drone production facility for a period of 49 years and provide a number of incentives. Parts and materials used in the production of the drones will be exempt from customs duties. All financial and personal information regarding the new facility will remain confidential, Nordic Monitor has learned.

In addition to the drone factory, a training center will also be built. Baykar will be exempt from income tax for 10 years due to its investments. The expiration of the agreement is January 1, 2035.

For Baykar, which currently uses engines from Ukrainian companies Ivchenko-Progress and Motor Sich in the military drones they produce, the production plant in Ukraine will also provide convenience in terms of logistics and time.

Meanwhile, Baykar announced that the company recently signed the first export contract for the state-of-the-art Bayraktar Akıncı unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), one of the company’s newest products. The announcement, which did not reveal the country it was sold to, pointed out that delivery would take place in 2023. Defense industry experts declared that the sale was made to Ukraine, but due to the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the name of the country was deliberately withheld.

Haluk Bayraktar, a popular name in Ukraine

Bayraktar CEO Haluk Bayraktar has long had close relationships with Ukrainian military officials and diplomats.

Interestingly, in 2017 there tweeted an article titled “Ukraine hates its new donated US drones”, claiming they were easily blocked by Russian-backed forces. It seems that they contacted the Ukrainians to offer them a better alternative.

Bayraktar, who in 2020 received a State Medal from the President of Ukraine for his services to Ukraine and Ukrainian-Turkish relations, was the guest of honor at the ceremonies celebrating the 30th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine during which Bayraktar drones were displayed during the official parade. .

Ukrainian President Zelensky awarded Haluk Bayraktar with a State Medal on August 26, 2020.

Finally, Haluk backed a notorious ruling party troll, who announced an aid campaign by the Turkish intelligence-backed jihadist charity group İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH, for people in need. in the Syrian region of Idlib.

Haluk had previously been appointed as a board member of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) by Erdogan in 2018, which the opposition strongly opposed due to nepotism.