A military drone that flew all the way from the Ukrainian war zone over three European NATO-member states before crashing in the urban zone of Zagreb, the Croatian capital, was armed with an explosive device, Croatia’s defense minister said on Sunday.
The aircraft crossed Romania and Hungary, and entered Croatia, and slammed into a field near a student dormitory late Thursday. About 40 parked cars were damaged in the crater—sized hit. No one was injured, but a lot of questions are now being raised.
“Traces of explosives and clues suggesting that this was not a reconnaissance aircraft were found. We found parts of an air bomb,” Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banozic said at the crash site.
Banozic raised the question about whether the drone belonged to Russia or Ukraine.
“There are elements that indicated it could have come from both,” Banozic said.
Investigators have pulled most of the drone’s remaining parts from the large crater, including a partly damaged black box that could reveal the drone’s exact flight path.
Since Thursday when the drone hit Zagreb, Croatian officials have criticized NATO for their slow reaction and called into question the readiness of the military alliance’s member states to respond.
NATO claims they had tracked the drone’s flight path. Croatian officials claims NATO did not inform Croatian authorities and that NATO reacted only after the fact.
“If this situation had been detected and resolved in time in neighboring countries, we would not be here today,” Banozic said.
“We will seek answers to what happened. The defense ministers of Romania and Hungary said that they were evaluating what happened. We are waiting for an answer,” he said.
Croatian investigators identified the unmanned aircraft that crashed in Zagreb as a Soviet-era Tu-141 that was used for reconnaissance missions by Russia and Ukraine in the 1980s.
A source inside Croatia, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave an exclusive interview to CDM.Press.
“This drone crash is a big deal here, including Prime Minister Plenković’s complaints about NATO for not having spotted it as it traversed Hungarian airspace for nearly one hour,” wrote CDM.Press’ source.
“Hungary is probably the NATO country in the most conflicted position on Ukraine [conflict]. Orbán was very reluctant about any buildup of NATO forces prior to the invasion, initially refusing any additional NATO forces, although he changed his tune somewhat.”
“Hungary is nearly completely energy dependent on Russia (aside from some LNG that comes from of all places Croatia) and petroleum from here (Hungarian oil company MOL is principal owner of INA, Croatian national oil company, now “privatized”. Hungary also has a longstanding beef with Ukraine about its ethnically Hungarian minority in western Ukraine,” wrote the source.
“Another piece of the puzzle is the generally bad relationship between Hungary and Croatia. The oil company (INA) issue is only one of many that Croats have with Hungarians,” wrote CDM.Press’ source.