KGB shoots down a Ukrainian drone

Gosh, I sure picked the right year to learn Russian!

The State Committee on Anti-Danger
The Across the Dniester River Moldovan Republic State Committee on Anti-Danger

Last night, I saw Russian news channel L!feNews report that the Transnistrian KGB shot down a Ukrainian drone (literally bezpilotnik or “without pilot”). Since then I’ve seen several other Russian-language media outlets reporting the same thing.

Unfortunately, scaremongering Ukrainian news sources (in Russian) have been showing pictures of unmanned drones similar to the kind that the American government uses to murder their own citizens and other innocent people worldwide. The good news here is that the Ukrainian bezpilotnik was nothing of the sort.


You can see the original photos on the Transnistrian KGB‘s own website that the drone is clearly a remote-controlled “toy” type plane (although quite large) that anyone can buy from a German company. Those planes aren’t cheap (they run anywhere from 900 to 2500 euros) but they’re a long way from those huge military style UAVs.

I love the above image (of the wreckage) because it shows so much about Transnistria and you don’t need to speak a word of Russian to understand it.

First, it looks like someone strapped a Samsung phone to the plane to record photos and/or video, which is pretty amateurish (and non-military). Secondly, you can see a kid just out of the frame, which makes it look like this KGB agent shot down the R/C plane while out and about with his family.

Third, you can see just how rich and fertile Transnistria is with a lush field stretching off into the distance. This is in stark contrast to the brown, dry scrubland that composes most of (the rest of) Moldova. As I already wrote about before, Transnistria belongs geographically to the fertile plains of Ukraine and it is only through (essentially) a cartographical mistake that it ever got included in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic to begin with.

Whether the Ukrainian military or some Pravy Sektor types or just a curious citizen sent over the bezpilotnik into Transnistria, we’ll never know. But what I fear is just how these type of actions continue to ratchet up the tension.

As a case in point, Dmitry Rogozin recently appeared on Russian state TV and said that if Moldova joins the EU and/or NATO, Transnistria won’t come along (link in English). His Twitter feed has been absolutely invaluable to me because he is both the deputy prime minister of Russia as well as being his government’s point man on Moldova so what he says and thinks is of utmost importance in understanding what’s going on.

But understanding Russian has paid off for me beyond just being able to understand the official story here.

In the chyron (scrolling text) underneath Rogozin is the news bulletin that Luxembourg and Bulgaria (both EU members) are against imposing sanctions on Russia. I haven’t heard a single thing about that in the English-language news, where they focus only on what America, UK, Germany (and to a lesser extent, France) have to say. Here in Romania it’s obvious that President Basescu is fiercely anti-Russian but the EU now has 28 members and frankly their voices are getting lost in the mix.

By far though my favorite comment to a video is one of the viewers of the L!fenews report where they are laughing at how Transnistria still uses old Soviet-style buses (seen in the archival footage used in the report). The Transnistrian government speaks modern Russian but their state is stuck in a timewarp, which is why they still have a KGB and Stalin statues, and it’s clear that most Russians think of them as antiquated relics from a bygone era.

That’s a lot less “black and white” than the usual EU/USA/Romania propaganda wherein Russia can’t wait to accept their little Transnistrian brothers back into the fold (of the Soviet Union, no less!).

Frankly, the people in Transnistria are terribly divided, some wanting to walk across the (largely) unmarked border and join their brothers in Ukraine, others wanting to focus westwards to Chisinau, Romania and the EU, and only a handful wanting the iron hand of Putin’s Russia to take over the administration of their daily affairs.

I spent my entire childhood in vague fear of a faraway menace, old men in fur hats mumbling an incomprehensible language as they guzzled vodka and plotted to destabilize and conquer the globe in direct competition with my homeland and the people that I knew and understood. But the older I get and the more languages I understand, the more I realize what a bunch of malarkey that is.

As soon as you can understand what another person is saying, you can understand them and see that they’re not that different at all. There really aren’t that many bad people in this world, only a hell of a lot of ordinary people who badly misunderstand each other because of language differences.

3 thoughts on “KGB shoots down a Ukrainian drone

  1. Sam, you make some fine points these days about the (east) Moldova question, and I believe that one day even Romanian nationalists – many of whom I sympathise and identify with – will need to try and understand better what the Russians have been through and why many are how they are. We’re talking of course about the 25 million dead in WW2, more than any other country in the world, about repeatedly being invaded over the past centuries either by France, then Germany, and in between that, absolutely everybody and his dog, including even Australia. Yes, there is something special in the Russian historical experience we need to try and understand better, in order to get past the tiresome “black and white” coldwar-like narratives. On the other hand, there’s an old saying that it takes 2 to tango, and then … if you want to understand even better the background of all the bad blood in the former soviet union, you really need to talk to the NON-Russians or NON-russophiles there as well. A lot of those people have very legitimate beefs with Russia imo (or soviet, from the old days, which they see as much the same thing), or indeed with Russian meddling in their (now independent) countries, so as a result, hatred or mistrust may take a long time to go away. The “crux of the biscuit” I believe is down to how the NON-Russians and NON-russophiles are treated in the areas that are predominantly Russian. This is because – let’s face it – all over the former soviet empire, Russians are still the priveleged minority, but surely the other people matter too no? and certainly no less if not more so if they are disadvantaged. If, like the Romanians in Transnistria, people are stifled from enjoying their own culture, speaking their language, and generally constantly harassed, this does not bode well for “post soviet multi-culturalism”. As one gets the impression you have more knowledge of the geopolitical and social-political scene there than most, it would be interesting to hear your views on the situation of the Romanian Moldovans in Transnistria, both around the DMZlike / unrecognised border areas, and elsewhere, and with particular regard to the Romanian schools question. If anything, this is a point that feeds the staunch anti-Russian feeling in Romania – how Romanian language schools in Transnistria are constantly seen to be besieged and harassed either by various separatist functionaries and paramilitaries, how people (particularly Moldovan Romanians) can be arbitrarily arrested (or even shot and killed), and how there is close to no regard for basic rule of law.


  2. “Whether the Ukrainian military or some Pravy Sektor types or just a curious citizen sent over the bezpilotnik into Transnistria, we’ll never know. But what I fear is just how these type of actions continue to ratchet up the tension.”

    This type of actions ratchet up the tension? Are you nuts? Russia occupied and annexed a strategic chunk of Ukraine, together with the circus of referendum from the 1930’s playbook and this toy ratchets up the tension?!

    You’ve lost it, Sam. Don’t let facts cloud your prejudices.


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