By Andrius Sytas
VILNIUS (Reuters) – Manufacturer Baykar and Turkey’s Defence Industry Agency will donate a Bayraktar TB2 advanced combat drone to Lithuania for transfer to Ukraine, after Lithuanians crowdfunded nearly 6 million euros to buy it, Lithuania’s defence ministry said on Thursday.
Baykar will deliver the drone in a few weeks. It will be painted in the colours of the Lithuanian and Ukrainian flags, according to the ministry, which had said last week it would arrange to buy the craft.
“We came to Turkey to agree on conditions for the drone purchase, but they prepared the most pleasant surprise possible for us,” Deputy Defence Minister Vilius Semaska said in a statement.
Baykar confirmed its donation in a Twitter post that included photographs of Semaska with a drone at its premises.
“The people of Lithuania have honorably raised funds to buy a Bayraktar TB2 for Ukraine. Upon learning this, Baykar will gift a Bayraktar TB2 to Lithuania free of charge and asks those funds go to Ukraine for humanitarian aid,” the company said.
Hundreds of people chipped in to buy the drone for Ukraine as a show of solidarity in its war against Russia, which also once ruled Lithuania.
A total of 5.9 million euros ($6.2 million) was raised in just 5-1/2 days, mostly in small donations, according to Laisves TV, the Lithuanian internet broadcaster that launched the drive.
About 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) of the funds raised will be used to pay for armaments for the drone, the defence ministry said, with the rest used for other help for Ukraine.
Kyiv has previously bought dozens of the TB2 drones, which have proven effective in recent years against Russian forces and their allies in conflicts in Syria and Libya.
Ankara, which has good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow, is not among NATO members that have sent heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Lithuania is also looking to purchase a Bayraktar or a similar drone for its own military, Semaska told Reuters. “We are looking into a TB2 but it could also be a TB3 or another drone armed with missiles,” he said.
($1 = 0.9335 euros)
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Catherine Evans)