Fact-checking claims of “an enemy drone in an Avdiivka garden”
On Monday, February 20, the chief of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast police, Vyacheslav Abroskin, shared a series of photographs on his Facebook that showed a drone found in a residential area of Avdiivka. Abroskin included two photographs of the drone, and said that the drone was likely Russian. This news was fairly widely reported in the Ukrainian press, with headlines indicating that “A Russian Drone Has Been Found in Avdiivka”, “Police find a fallen Russian drone during a patrol of Avdiivka”, “A Russian drone falls in a pensioner’s garden in Avdiivka”, and “Police find an enemy drone in an Avdiivka garden.”
“…Yesterday morning in an old district of Avdiivka, police found a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] in a garden. A visual inspection showed that the drone was by all indications of Russian production.”
Abroskin went on to say that there was no apparent damage to the drone, and that its downing was likely due to a mechanical error, rather than a shoot-down. While he pointed to the drone being Russian — which was not a huge leap of judgment, considering the frequent activity of Russian drones in eastern Ukraine — there is no actual evidence backing up this assertion. In fact, all indications from open source materials point to the drone being a Ukrainian drone produced in Kharkiv.
This drone appears to be a Mara-2M, manufactured in Kharkiv by the Carboline engineering firm. There are few photographs or videos of the 2M model online, but the available materials clearly show that the Mara-2M was used by Ukrainian forces in the ATO zone and that the features of the drones are the same as the one discovered in Avdiivka. Twitter user @hu_YUZHNOYE pointed out the identity of the drone, naming it as a Kharkiv-made Mara-2M.
наша, Мара-2М харьковская pic.twitter.com/dLy6AlVkY7
— Кенгурудий (@FMJ_Grif) February 20, 2017
A comparison of the key components of this drone — the antennae, propeller, shape and size of the fuselage, wing, tail, and so on — shows that this is the same model as the drone found in Avdiivka.
Photographs from the Carboline booth at a trade expo shows angle on the Mara-2M, again showing similarities to the drone photographed in Avdiivka.
This same model of drone was previously downed on June 16, 2015 by separatist fighters; however, in this example, there were two stickers for the ultra-nationalist organization Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) on the wings. It is difficult to establish the scale of the drone from the photographs, but the features seem to match the Mara-2M.
Along with the clear visual similarities to the Mara-2M, we also know that it has been deployed in the ATO zone by Ukrainian forces thanks to a number of sources. The most recent of these sources is an issue of the Ukrainian Defense Review, published on February 12, 2017, which specifically mentions the Mara-2M.
Despite initial identification from the Ukrainian police chief, the downed drone was not Russian, and was almost certainly deployed by Ukrainian forces before crashing in Avdiivka. Except for the previous examples of Russia deploying drones in the Donbas, it is unclear what the reasons were to believe that the Mara-2M drone was Russian made or used by separatist forces.
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