Russia wants armed drones from China, says US; Moscow, Beijing deny claim

China had signalled willingness to provide military assistance to Russia, US officials say; China says US is spreading misinformation

Ukraine has been using drones, especially Turkish-made TB2 drones, against Russia's invading forces. (Representational image)

In a warning to European allies, the US has reportedly said that Russia asked China, Moscow’s most powerful diplomatic partner, for armed drones in late February as it was beginning its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow, it is said, sought military assistance, including drones, and economic support from Beijing. Both Russian and Chinese governments have, however, denied that such a support has been asked for.

Unnamed US officials told multiple news outlets that China had signalled willingness to provide military assistance to Russia right before White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday. According to National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne, the meeting was a follow-up conversation to President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s virtual meeting in November 2021.

The discussions between Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi reportedly went on for over six hours and are said to have covered a range of issues including the Russian invasion.
People close to the development said on the condition of anonymity that the Russian request has alarmed Biden administration which is trying to prevent China from coming to Russia’s aid in the war.

Appeal to China

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The Joe Biden administration has been trying to persuade Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to help end the conflict which has already claimed thousands of lives and rendered millions homeless. Biden’s top advisers have pressured China to enforce sanctions on Russia’s economy imposed by the US and its allies in Europe and Asia.

The US has meanwhile warned China that it will face consequences if it helps Russia evade sanctions in its invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainians have been using drones, especially Turkish-made TB2 drones, a US senior defense official noted on Monday. The drones, used for reconnaissance as well as strikes, have been especially effective against Russian ground troops.

The Ukrainians still have a significant majority of their drone inventory, according to the official, while Kremlin, according to the defence official, seem not to have anticipated that they or Ukraine would deploy drones in the war.

The US is reportedly in conversations with allies who have useful capabilities that the US does not have in getting more of weapons to the Ukrainians.

Not true, says Russia

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports Russia had asked China for military assistance were not true.

“Russia possesses its own independent potential to continue the operation. As we said, it is going according to plan and will be completed on time and in full,” he said.

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation. Russia denied asking Beijing for military help.

(With agency inputs)

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