Turkey’s Baykar drone company ‘will never’ supply Russia: CEO

Haluk Bayraktar tells CNN that he is proud the Bayraktar TB2 has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against Russia.

Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone pictured on an air strip
Bayraktar TB2 drone is pictured on December 16, 2019 at Gecitkale military airbase in Turkey [File: AFP]

The CEO of Turkey’s Baykar, which makes the drones being widely used by Ukraine against Russian forces, has ruled out supplying the Bayraktar TB2 to Moscow.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Haluk Bayraktar said Ukraine is “under very heavy aggression and disproportionate attacks”.

When pressed by CNN presenter Julia Chatterley, who repeatedly asked, “Would you supply Russia?”, Bayraktar responded: “We have not delivered or supplied them with anything, [and] we will as well never do such a thing because we support Ukraine, support its sovereignty, its resistance for its independence.”

Bayraktar said he is proud that Bayraktar TB2 has become one of the symbols of the Ukrainian resistance against Russia.

“It’s very touching,” he said, hailing “years of cooperation” and “strong bonds” with Ukraine.

Crowdfunding campaigns in Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Norway have been launched to buy the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the government in Kyiv.

“We have donated to this campaign and we have delivered our unmanned systems,” said Bayraktar.

Lithuanians raised nearly six million euros ($6m) for the drone in May, largely in small donations, after which its Turkish maker decided to donate it instead.

Baykar and Lithuania reportedly agreed that 1.5 million euros ($1.5m) would be spent to arm the drone and the rest of the crowdfunded money would go towards humanitarian assistance.

Ukraine has bought more than 20 Bayraktar TB2 armed drones from Baykar in recent years and ordered a further 16 on January 27. That batch was delivered in early March.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov revealed in late June that Ukraine has received 50 UAVs from Baykar since Russia’s February 24 invasion.

Reznikov also thanked Ukrainians and Baykar for the donation of three Bayraktar TB2s following the Ukrainian social media fundraising campaign, which had raised enough to acquire three drones.

Baykar said it refused to take the money and would instead donate the drones.

Haluk Bayraktar’s father established the Istanbul firm in 1980s. He runs it with his brother Selcuk Bayraktar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law.

The Bayraktar drone has maximum airtime of 27 hours and can fly as high as 7,620 metres (25,000 feet). It has achieved celebrity status in Ukraine; there are even songs dedicated to the UAV in the war-stricken nation.

While initially lauded as a useful tool in the military’s arsenal, Russia, which has a significantly stronger and larger army, claims to have destroyed dozens of the drones.

A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone
A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is seen during a rehearsal of a military parade for Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 20, 2021 [Efrem Lukatsky/AP]
Source: Al Jazeera