President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday ordered the creation of a separate branch of Ukraine’s armed forces devoted to drones, weapons he and military officials say are crucial to fighting the war against Russia.

Zelenskiy signed a decree calling on the government and general staff of the armed forces to “work out issues on the creation within the Ukrainian armed forces of a separate force for drone systems”.

“I have just signed a decree which will launch the creation of a separate branch within our armed forces — a drone systems force,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

“This is not a question for the future. Rather, it must provide concrete results in the very near future. This year must be decisive in a great many aspects. And clearly on the battlefield. Drone systems have shown their effectiveness on land, in the skies and on the seas.”

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister for Digital Transformation, said the separate branch would provide “a powerful impetus” to the military’s technological development.

In the past year, he said, drones had “fundamentally changed the situation on the battlefield. They are effective in stopping Russian attacks and back up counterattacks by Ukraine’s armed forces.”

According to Zelenskiy’s decree, the results of the study would be submitted to the policy-making National Security and Defence Council.

Zelenskiy has pointed to drones, and production domestically and with partner nations, as a key element in conducting the war against Russia since Moscow’s invasion two years ago this month.

In December, the president pledged that Ukraine would produce a million drones in 2024.

Government officials have said that Ukraine aims to produce tens of thousands of drones every month. No figures on current production are available, but since the start of the war, drone production has shot up, with dozens of companies developing and producing different models.

The commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, whose position is in question in view of differences with the president, said in a comment for CNN last week that drones were critical for the conduct of the war.

“Crucially, it is these unmanned systems – such as drones – along with other types of advanced weapons, that provide the best way for Ukraine to avoid being drawn into a positional war, where we do not possess the advantage,” Zaluzhnyi wrote. REUTERS



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