Pro-Erdoğan businessman criticizes Turkey's drone sales to Ukraine in Russian TV interview

In an interview with a Russian TV channel in Moscow, Ethem Sancak, a Turkish businessman who has been cooperating closely with President Erdoğan, has insinuated that Turkey's drone sales to Ukraine were a mistake by saying: “We did not know that Bayraktar drones would be used in this way while selling them.”

Duvar English

Ethem Sancak, a businessman who has close ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, went to Moscow together with a delegation from the Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi). He there gave a 15-minute-long interview to the Russian RBC TV channel, during which he openly defended Russia and criticized Turkey's past drone sales to Ukraine.

“We will not join in the sanctions, because if Russia falls, Turkey would get divided. And if Turkey falls, the same goes for Russia. [Turkish President] Erdoğan tried to draw [Ukrainian President] Zelenski's attention to this side, and he is still doing so. We did not know that Bayraktar drones would be used in this way while selling them [previously to Ukraine]. We are allies with Russia,” he was quoted as saying by Independent Turkish on March 4.

Sancak also slammed NATO, saying that Turkey's membership in the organization is “shameful.” He also accused NATO of staging the failed coup attempt of July 2016 in Turkey. 

“In the Russia-Ukraine issue, the main criminal is NATO. NATO is a cancer, tumor that comes from the past. It is also NATO that has been supporting terrorists and initiated the 2016 coup,” he said.

Since Russia launched its invasion a week ago, the Ukrainian Embassy in Ankara has posted several videos of what they say are Bayraktar TB2 drones hitting Russian targets. 

Russia had previously raised concerns with Turkey over Ukraine's use of the drones in the country's east, but Ankara says it is not responsible for what buyers do. Cheaper than U.S. and Chinese rivals, Turkish drones have attracted buyers from Europe, Africa and Asia.

Turkey cooperates closely with Russia in energy, trade and defence. It has also sold Bayraktar TB2 drones to Kyiv and signed a deal to co-produce more during a visit there last month by Erdoğan, angering Moscow.