KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy backed a fundraising campaign on Friday to help Ukraine build a fleet of naval drones to protect its cities against Russian missile strikes from the Black Sea.
United24, an initiative started by Zelenskiy to collect charitable donations for Ukraine after the February 24 Russian invasion, said Ukraine needed 100 drones, each costing 10 million hryvnias ($274,000).
Since launching its full-scale invasion, Russia has carried out missile strikes from ships in the Black Sea and Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014 and is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
“We must defend the waters of our seas and our peaceful cities against Russian missiles launched from ships,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Naval drones will also help unlock the corridor for civilian ships carrying grain for the world.”
Russia began blockading Ukrainian Black Sea ports shortly after the February invasion, blocking grain exports.
Three ports have been unblocked as part of a deal brokered in July by the United Nations and Turkey to help ease a global food crisis.
Russia suspended its participation after what it said was a Ukrainian attack on three of its Black Sea Fleet ships late last month using aerial and naval drones, but later backtracked. the deal which is due to expire next week.
“I’m sure millions of people will support this important area of Ukraine’s defense,” Zelenskiy wrote of the naval drone fundraising campaign. “Everyone has already seen how it works.”
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied being behind the October drone attack, which a statement on the United24 website said was the first such strike carried out exclusively by unmanned aerial vehicles. pilot.
“Russia has lost its once undeniable edge on water,” the statement said.
($1 = 36.5000 hryvnias)
(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, editing by Timothy Heritage)