U.S. Planes to Protect Croatia's Skies as Ukraine Pleads for No-Fly Zone

The United States will send fighter planes to Croatia after a drone from Ukraine's war zone crashed in the capital city late last week.

At a Tuesday press conference, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković confirmed that the object that crashed in Zagreb last Thursday was a Soviet-made drone armed with an explosive. As a result, the U.S. will send two F-16 planes to the capital on Wednesday to "give support of Croatia's security," he said. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to plead for protection of its own airspace from Russian forces.

The decision comes because Croatia is a member of NATO, while Ukraine, which has been calling for military defense of its skies since the Russian invasion began, does not belong to the alliance. Most Western nations are wary of establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. For NATO members, "an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies," according to Article 5 of the organization's founding treaty.

"This is proof that the Republic of Croatia is in close cooperation with its allies," Plenković said.

It is unclear whether the drone's crash in Zagreb was intentional. The crash created a crater in the ground, damaging about 40 parked cars, but there were no injuries, the Associated Press reported. However, the crash occurred near a college dormitory, so the consequences could have been more disastrous had the drone fallen in a slightly different direction.

At the conference, the prime minister said officials did not receive any information on the drone until it entered the country's airspace. He confirmed that the drone had traces of bombs and explosives, showing a photo of the explosion fragments found at the site.

"It is important for the public to see it because of the seriousness of the situation," he said, adding that authorities are still working to determine the type of bomb the drone was armed with.

So far, it has not been determined whether the drone came from Ukrainian or Russian forces.

In a tweet Plenković posted Monday, he said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called him to "express his worry and support" following the drone crash and a "readiness" to work with NATO to "help protect our skies."

"We affirmed the importance of strengthening our combined security and strategic dialogue," Plenković wrote.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded multiple times for Western countries to impose a no-fly zone over his country, but their governments have rejected the requests out of fears of a military confrontation with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a country's declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be taken as "participation in the armed conflict."

​​"If you don't close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian rockets fall on your territory, on NATO territory," Zelensky said in a video address earlier this week.

So far, Estonia, another NATO member, is the only country besides Ukraine to call for a no-fly zone over the country. On Tuesday, Estonia passed a resolution asking the European Union and United Nations to "take immediate steps" to establish the zone "in order to prevent massive civilian casualties in Ukraine."

Drone From Ukraine Crashes In Croatia
Above, a crater in the ground made by an armed drone after crashing on the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia, last week. Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images