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Ukraine to receive ‘thousands’ of drones as Latvia coaxes allies

A Ukrainian serviceman stands behind a machine gun as a drone flies during an anti drone drill in Chernigiv region on Nov. 11, 2023. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Latvia’s defense chief said the Baltic nation is making progress in assembling a coalition of almost 20 countries to arm Ukrainian forces with “thousands” of new unmanned aerial vehicles.

The comments by Defense Minister Andris Spruds are the first indication of the scale of the drone initiative after the plan was unveiled at a meeting with Ukraine’s defense chief, Rustem Umerov, in December. A fresh inventory will help Kyiv’s military in a conflict in which drone warfare has become a significant element in the fighting, he said.

“The primary goal is to do everything so that as many of these drones as possible are also delivered to Ukraine,” Spruds said in an interview in Riga on Monday.

Russia’s military has used barrages of drones and missiles to hit Ukrainian cities, ports and infrastructure since its invasion almost two years ago. The Kremlin launched some 90 drones — almost all of which Ukraine said were were downed by defenses — in a New Year’s Eve attack on targets near the Black Sea port of Odesa and the western city of Lviv.

Drones have been at the top of the list of military hardware sought by Ukraine’s military leaders. Ukrainian and Russian forces are aggressively using the aerial vehicles for surveillance and targeting troops with explosives. Ukraine is also building a fleet of naval drones, which it’s deployed to target Russian vessels in the Black Sea.

Ukraine has set out to produce a million modified so-called first-person view UAVs for use on the battlefield this year, as well as more than 10,000 mid-range and 1,000 long-range strike drones, Oleksandr Kamyshin, minister of strategic industries, said last month.

The Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — have been among the most vocal NATO member states in condemning President Vladimir Putin’s war aims. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a tour of the region this month, where he reinforced his message that Kyiv had no intention of acquiescing to Russia’s assault.

Spruds declined to give further details of the drone project, saying that “we are currently at the stage where we are approaching 20 partners.”


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