Romania’s defense minister said Wednesday that pieces apparently of a drone from Russia’s recent attacks on Ukraine’s port on the Danube River have been found on the territory of his country. Romania is a NATO member.
Angel Tilvar, the minister, told local news channel Antena 3 CNN that parts of what was most likely a drone were discovered in the eastern Tulcea county, an area of the Danube that forms a natural border between Romania and war-torn Ukraine.
“I confirm that in this area, pieces that may be of a drone were found,” he said, adding that the pieces didn’t pose a threat.
It’s unclear if Romania has determined when or from where the drone was launched. There has been a series of recent attacks by Russia on Danube ports in Ukraine, which are close to Romania, a NATO member since 2004.
Tilvar’s comments come after Romania’s Ministry of National Defense “categorically denied” claims made on Monday by the spokesperson of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oleg Nikolenko, who said that Shahed drones launched by Russia on Sunday night fell and exploded on Romanian territory.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis also denied those claims on Tuesday, saying that the attacks were “verified 800 meters (yards) from our border, so very, very close.”
On Wednesday, Iohannis responded to the minister’s comments by saying he had requested an “urgent investigation.”
“If it is confirmed that these elements come from a Russian drone, such a situation would be completely inadmissible and a serious violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Romania, a NATO allied state,” he said at the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bucharest.
Romania briefed its NATO allies Wednesday about the find at a meeting of the 31-nation organization’s envoys in Brussels.
“The Romanian authorities have confirmed that debris, possibly from a drone, has been found on Romanian soil, close to the border with Ukraine,” NATO spokesperson Dylan White said in a statement.
“Allies expressed strong solidarity with Romania,” White said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely, and we remain in close contact with our ally Romania.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year in February, there has been only one other recorded incident of the war spilling into a NATO member state. That was when a missile struck a farm in Poland, killing two people. Polish officials later said it appeared to be unintentional and was probably launched by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine.
“In a fairly short period of time there were a series of attacks that Russia made against Ukrainian port facilities and warehouses,” Tilvar said. “Which is why I think it is important to strengthen vigilance measures.”
Stephen McGrath reported from Sighisoara; Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.