Ukraine needs ‘incredible amount of drones,’ defense chief says
Ukraine’s defense chief said that his country needed “an incredible amount of drones,” as Moscow’s war with Kyiv rages on into its second year.
“This is also a game changer. Both drones for reconnaissance and adjustment, shock drones from 3 to 1,000 kilometers (1.8-621 miles), and marine drones. This makes it possible to strike the enemy. And it keeps our military alive by providing situational awareness,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview with local news site Liga.
Reznikov said the ministry held a meeting with 80 domestic drone manufacturers to procure the drones it needs with a budget of 20 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($542.7 million).
Ukraine’s main military drone is the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) which has been used in several war zones, including Syria, Libya and Karabakh.
A project to construct a plant in Ukraine for the production of these drones has also been completed and the legal framework formed, according to previous statements of Ukraine’s ambassador to Türkiye.
The TB2 has been hugely popular in Ukraine, where it helped destroy Russian artillery systems and armored vehicles. It even became the subject of a patriotic expletive-strewn hit song in Ukraine that mocked Russian troops, with the chorus “Bayraktar, Bayraktar.”
In response to a question about the possibility of China coming to Russia’s aid in Moscow’s war against Kyiv, Reznikov pointed out that Beijing had the capability to interfere in the operation of Ukrainian drones, but that he remained “an informed optimist” that it would not involve itself in the conflict.
“I watched the speeches of the leaders of China and India. They made it quite clear that today, war is not the way to solve problems between countries. There are other priorities. This is a thoughtful and conscious position. Therefore, I hope that there will be no direct open assistance to Russia,” Reznikov said.
He also noted that the fact Russia was looking for support gave the signal that Moscow was in a difficult situation.
“They are looking for where to sew body armor, where to order shells. They are looking for armored vehicles, looking for guns, looking for shells.”
On Ukraine’s own material needs, Reznikov said Kyiv was able to source all the supplies it needed but that its main concern was for deliveries to be made in time.
He further noted Ukraine’s need to strengthen its air defenses, including by acquiring aircraft.
“Therefore, we need aircraft that, as an element of air defense, can see an enemy aircraft in the air and defeat it, shoot down a cruise or ballistic missile and, if necessary, strike at ground targets, such as warehouses, command posts, clusters of equipment. Spare parts, engineers, documentation and storage locations must be available,” he added.
Graft trial of deputy defense chief
During the interview, Reznikov also commented on the arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov early last month amid allegations of corruption, stressing that the former official remained innocent until proven guilty.
“I am a lawyer and my bible is the Constitution, which contains the principle of innocence (until proven guilty). Guilt can only be recognized by the court, not by lynching,” Reznikov said.
Shapovalov was dismissed from his post in January due to his involvement in a food procurement scandal, as the country conducted a large-scale government reshuffle following allegations of corruption.
“According to my information, he is not charged with anything related to nutrition. He has a different accusation, there is nothing corrupt there. No eggs, no carrots, no cabbage,” said Reznikov.
With regards to a question over claims that Shapovalov lobbied for the purchase of low-quality bulletproof vests worth about $27 million, Reznikov said the court would “figure it out” and that the contracts in question were dated from March 2022.
“I want to wait until the end of the investigation and hear the verdict. Because it can be justifiable too,” Reznikov further added, rejecting claims that he planned to resign should Shapovalov be found guilty.
“We, according to the Constitution, have the concept of individual responsibility for the commission of a crime. If the court finds him guilty, I admit that I made a personnel mistake … If we fire a minister every time there is a violation, I think we won’t go far. Let’s then replace the mayors, dismiss the head of parliament, because someone from their team messed up,” he added.