BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO member Romania found new fragments of a drone deemed similar to those used by the Russian army near its border with Ukraine on Wednesday, in the third such finding in a week, defense officials said.
Two helicopters from the Romanian Air Force were deployed with specialist teams to Nufaru and Victoria in the eastern county of Tulcea where the fragments were spread over an area of "several tens of meters,” the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
It said in a separate statement that it has notified the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations about areas near the border that could be at risk of incidents as Russian forces attack Ukraine’s Danube River ports across the river from Romania.
Emergency authorities have received phone calls “about possible cases of drone impacts" between three localities, including Nufaru, the ministry said. It later confirmed that samples collected from the site are similar to those used by the Russian army and that experts are continuing to establish the circumstances of the incident.
Romania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said after Wednesday's drone findings that it “reiterates its firm protest against the violation, once again, of Romania’s airspace” and that it will summon the head of Russia's diplomatic mission.
Wednesday's findings are the third such discovery on Romanian soil since last Thursday. They come during sustained attacks by Russian forces on Ukraine’s Danube ports as Moscow aims to disrupt Ukraine's ability to export grain to world markets.
NATO's acting spokesperson, Dylan White, said Wednesday that Romania's ambassador has updated allies about the new drone fragment findings, and that there is no indication of “any intentional attack by Russia against allied territory.”
“NATO stands in solidarity with our ally Romania,” he said.
In the Danube village of Plauru, which is situated opposite Ukraine’s Danube port of Izmail, Romania’s defense ministry has erected prefabricated concrete shelters for residents. They measure 9.6 meters long, two meters wide inside, and 1.5 meters high (about 31 feet long, 6.5 feet wide and five feet high).
While it’s unclear whether Romania has determined where or when the drones were launched, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said of drone fragment findings on Saturday that they were “similar to those used by the Russian army.”
Iohannis said it indicated there has been “an absolutely unacceptable violation of the sovereign airspace of Romania, a NATO ally, with real risks to the security of Romanian citizens in the area.”
Asked about the previous drone fragment findings, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said on Wednesday that “No one attacked us and no one is attacking us.”
“Some remains jumped from a drone that was hit by the Ukrainian army. It didn’t have explosives, it didn’t have anything that could harm the citizens,” he said.
Last week, Romania’s National Committee for Emergency Situations approved measures allowing authorities to issue localized text message alerts or sound alarms to warn inhabitants “adjacent to the conflict areas” in Ukraine of incidents or potential incidents.
Stephen McGrath reported from Sighisoara.