Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Danube ports worry neighboring Romania

Fireball on the horizon on the Ukrainian shore of the Danube River
A fireball lights the horizon on the Ukrainian shore of the Danube River, seen from eastern Romania on Tuesday night.
(Mircea Franc)
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The discovery of drone debris on Romanian territory this week has left some local residents fearing that the war in neighboring Ukraine could spread into their country, as Russian forces bombard Ukrainian ports just across the Danube River from NATO member Romania.

Moscow has been trying to disrupt Ukraine’s ability to export grain to world markets with a sustained campaign of attacks targeting Ukrainian Danube ports, and has attacked the port of Izmail four times this week, Ukrainian officials say.

Across from Izmail, pieces of what apparently had been a drone were found near the Romanian village of Plauru, Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar said Wednesday. It was unclear whether Romanian authorities had determined when or from where the drone was launched.


Tilvar said the debris didn’t pose a threat, but the development has left residents of the European Union nation feeling uneasy.

Daniela Tanase, 46, who lives in Plauru with her husband and son, said that the drone strikes on Izmail this week have woken her up and that villagers “are scared” of the persistent Russian attacks.

“In the first phase [of the war], things were calmer, but now it has come to our territory,” she said. But added: “For now, we haven’t thought of leaving the area — we hope it will pass.”

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Tilvar visited Plauru and nearby areas Wednesday after confirming the drone findings to a local news channel, and Romania’s Defense Ministry said he told local authorities there would be additional measures to secure “the airspace at Romania’s borders.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis demanded an “urgent investigation.” If the debris is confirmed to have been from a Russian drone, it would be an “inadmissible” violation of Romania’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Iohannis said at a multilateral summit in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, this week.

Mircea Franc, the owner of a guesthouse in the area of Chilia Veche, near Ukraine’s Kiliia port in the Danube Delta region, said that he saw “fireballs” in the sky this week on the other side of the Danube River and that it had left villagers shaken.


“Last night … there were drones cruising on the other side of the river, and the day before yesterday there were many. They are the first in our area since the war started,” he said Thursday. “The atmosphere in the village is indeed one of panic ... and the fear is worst at night.”

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Speaking at the European Parliament on Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the Western military alliance had been informed by Romania about the finding of drone pieces and that the episode “demonstrates the risks of incidents and accidents.”

“We don’t have any information indicating any intentional attack by Russia, and we are awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation,” Stoltenberg said.

For Franc, the proximity of the war is already having a negative effect on his guesthouse business since tourists are now “very reluctant to come here,” he said, adding that some local families have moved away from the area out of fear.

“We are worried because nobody can guarantee that [a drone] won’t fall on our side of the river,” he said. “For the last two nights, three-quarters of the village hasn’t been sleeping. Beyond trying to calm us down, the authorities can’t do much about it.”