Belarus Alleges Ukrainian Drone Crossed Illegally Over Border

Belarus Alleges Ukrainian Drone Crossed Illegally Over Border

Ukraine said the drone was not one of its, but a Russian Orlan-10 drone. Belarus said the drone was a Ukrainian design.


As Russian troops pour into Belarus for large-scale military exercises, Minsk has denounced Kiev for allegedly operating a drone in Belarusian state borders.

"On February 3, the foreign ministry summoned Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus Igor Kizim to protest against the targeted launch of a UAV from Ukraine to Belarus," the Belarusian foreign ministry announced in a press release, according to Russian state-backed news agency TASS.


According to the ministry, the drone illegally crossed into Belarusian state borders on January 24 and was forced to land by units of the Belarusian military. Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the allegation, which was first reported by Russian state news outlet RIA Novosti, in a recent interview with prominent Russian commentator Vladimir Soloviev.

Kiev has denied the charge that the drone belongs to the Ukrainian military, characterizing the story as a Belarusian provocation.

“As far as we know, we are talking about the Orlan drone, which is used exclusively within the Russian and Belarusian arsenals,” Kiszim reportedly said.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry urged “Minsk not to play along with Russia's destabilizing actions,” adding that “calm on the border between Belarus and Ukraine is in the interests of the entire region.”

The Orlan-10 is a Russian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) intended for reconnaissance missions. The drone was introduced in 2010 and was widely employed during Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War. In addition to being operated by Russia and Belarus, Orlan-10 drones were reportedly recently purchased by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The Belarusian military alleged that the drone they shot down is not an Orlan-10 UAV, but rather a Spectator-M1. Ukraine’s military received a slew of these modernized military drones in 2019. 

“The drone that violated Belarusian airspace belongs to a pre-serial production Spectator batch,” said Denis Fedutinov, editor-in-chief of the magazine Drone Aviation and member of Russia’s International Affairs Council. “This is one of the first Spectator variants, developed by the Ukrainian company Politeco Aero. It differs in its outward characteristics from the serial production Spectator-M1, currently being offered by the Ukrainian enterprise ‘Meridian.’” 

Fedutinov suggested that Kiev employed a relatively rare pre-production Spectator model to give itself plausible deniability in case the drone got intercepted in Belarusian airspace.

Minsk’s allegations are playing out in the context of major joint military drills between Russia and Belarus, slated for February 10-20. NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said 30,000 Russian troops were sent to Belarus ahead of the drills, dubbed “Union Resolve 2022,” marking Moscow’s largest deployment there since the Cold War. The drills will involve an array of advanced Russian military hardware, including Su-35 air superiority fighters, Pantsir S1 medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and 9K720 Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, and S-400 “Triumf” missile defense systems.

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.