As Pentagon Sends Phoenix Ghost Drones to Ukraine, Russia Slams NATO Allies

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has hit out NATO as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its 10th week and the U.S. has begun sending "Phoenix Ghost" drones to the Ukrainian government.

Lavrov accused the U.S. and NATO of encouraging Ukraine to pursue an "aggressive anti-Russian course" in an interview with China's official Xinhua News Agency.

A transcript of the interview was posted to the Russian Foreign Ministry's website on Saturday a day after a senior Pentagon official confirmed that the first shipment of Phoenix Ghost drones was due to arrive in Ukraine.

"Over the past years, the United States and its allies have done nothing to stop the intra-Ukrainian conflict," Lavrov said.

"Instead of inciting Kyiv to a political settlement on the basis of the Minsk 'Package of Measures', they 'pumped up' the Kyiv regime with weapons, trained and armed the Ukrainian army and nationalist battalions, and generally carried out the military-political development of the territory of Ukraine," he said.

"They encouraged the aggressive anti-Russian course pursued by the Kyiv authorities," Lavrov said.

Lavrov was referring to the 2015 Minsk Agreement which sought to end the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The ceasefire agreement was never fully implemented but French President Emmanuel Macron said in February that it could be a framework to end the current conflict.

Lavrov criticized Western nations' support for the government in Kyiv and said that the U.S., NATO and the EU should stop supplying weapons to Ukraine if they want negotiations to succeed.

"These are militant rhetoric and inflammatory actions of Kyiv's Western backers," Lavrov said. "They actually encourage [them] to 'fight to the last Ukrainian', pumping up the country with weapons and sending mercenaries there."

Newsweek has asked NATO for comment.

The foreign minister's comments come as the Pentagon confirmed on Friday that the first Phoenix Ghost drones were set to arrive in Ukraine.

A senior defense official told reporters that "we believe that a first tranche of those drones should be arriving in the region today, but not all 121, but a first tranche of them will be arriving in—in the region today."

The official said they did not believe training on how to use the drones had yet taken place in Ukraine. There are few details about the drones and it is not known where their name comes from, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The drones are produced by Aevex Aerospace, a company based in Solana Beach in San Diego County, California.

The drones reportedly hover in the sky and when they detect targets, they dive and hit the target, setting off an explosive warhead. No details have been disclosed about the drones' size, shape, payloads or capabilities.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby previously compared the Phoenix Ghost drone to the the Switchblade drone, saying it was "basically a one-way drone and attack drone. And that's essentially what this is designed to do."

The Biden administration is also providing 700 Switchblade drones to Ukraine.

Russia's Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, accused the U.S. administration in a statement posted on Facebook of pumping Ukraine with weapons.

"The U.S. authorities do not seem to be interested in a ceasefire. What matters for John Kirby and his colleagues is that the American military-industrial complex receives additional income by getting rid of obsolete weapons from their warehouses," he said.

Sergei Lavrov Attends a News Conference
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference following talks with his Armenian counterpart in Moscow, on April 8, 2022. Lavrov has criticized the U.S. and its NATO allies. ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP/Getty Images