ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatian officials criticized NATO on Saturday for what they said was a slow response to a military drone that apparently flew from the Ukrainian war zone over several member states of the NATO, before crashing in an urban area of the Croatian capital.
The Russian-made unmanned plane flew through Romania and Hungary before entering Croatia and crashing into a field near a student dormitory on Thursday evening. Around 40 parked cars were damaged but no one was injured after a loud explosion.
NATO said the alliance’s integrated air and missile defense tracked the object’s flight path. But the Croatian prime minister said the country’s authorities were not informed and that NATO only reacted after questions were posed by journalists.
“We cannot tolerate this situation, and it should never have happened,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said during a visit to the crash site.
“It was a pure and clear threat and NATO and the EU should have reacted,” he said. ”
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Plenkovic said a Soviet-era Tu-141 “Strizh” reconnaissance drone flew for more than 40 minutes over Hungary and six to seven minutes over Croatia before crashing. Earlier, Romanian defense authorities said the flying object was only in Romanian airspace for three minutes after crossing Ukraine, making it difficult to intercept.
Plenkovic called on Hungarian authorities to open an investigation into why his defenses apparently failed to notice the unmanned drone, as Croatia and Romania had little time to react to the fast-moving object.
“Fortunately, something much worse didn’t happen,” Plenkovic said, adding that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban “discovered it after me.”
“It could have fallen on the nuclear power plant in Hungary. Obviously, there was not a good reaction and other countries did not react well. Now we have a test from which we have to learn and react much better,” he said.
He said only an air crash investigation can determine who launched the drone – the Russians or the Ukrainians – after the object was pulled out of a large crater created after the impact.
Russia and Ukraine have denied launching the drone.
Military experts say Ukraine is the only known current operator of the Tu-141, which has a wingspan of nearly 4 meters (12 feet) and weighs just over 6 tons.
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