Romania said on Wednesday that debris from what could be a Russian drone had landed on its territory across the Danube River from Ukraine and said that if the wreckage turned out to be Russian, it would be “a serious violation” of a NATO member’s sovereignty.
Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukrainian grain ports in the Danube delta, including Izmail, which lies less than 200 yards from Romanian territory and was blasted again by Russian drones on Tuesday. Still, it was not clear how the debris that was found late on Tuesday in the Romanian village of Plauru got there, including whether it had landed by accident.
If confirmed, the presence of Russian drone wreckage inside Romania “would be completely unacceptable and a serious violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Romania, a NATO allied state,” the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis, said on his Facebook page.
As a member of NATO, Romania is covered by the U.S.-led alliance’s commitment to collective security, which obliges all members to come to the defense of any state that requests assistance in the event of an attack. But Romania has avoided any hint that it might invoke Article 5, the cornerstone of the joint defense pact, over the debris found on Tuesday.
Since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022, NATO has faced the possibility that the war might spill over into the territory of member countries that line Ukraine’s western border, potentially triggering an expansion of the conflict. Such concerns ran high in November last year, after a missile that Ukraine initially insisted was Russian killed two Poles in a village near the border between Poland, also a NATO member, and Ukraine. But tensions abated when it turned out to be a Ukrainian air defense missile.
Confusion has also surrounded the recent events in Romania. On Monday, Ukraine again claimed that Russia had hit a NATO country, while Romanian officials, including President Iohannis, initially insisted that no Russian debris had been found on their side of the Danube.
On Wednesday, however, Romania’s defense minister, Angel Tivar, said that search teams sent to the area had “found pieces that could be part of a drone” near Plauru. In a television interview during a visit to the village, Mr. Tivar played down any risk of escalation. He said there were no plans to evacuate residents from the area and said of the debris: “These pieces don’t pose a threat.”
Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports on the Danube have increased sharply in recent weeks as Moscow has sought to sever what has been a shipping lifeline for Ukraine. The Danube ports have been vital to Ukraine’s ability to export grain since the collapse in July of a deal that had allowed Ukraine to ship grain past Russia’s Navy through the Black Sea.
With Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, like Odesa, also under frequent Russian attack, and Russia having warned that it could consider any ship approaching the ports potentially hostile, they are now too dangerous for grain-carrying vessels bound for the Middle East and Africa. That has left the ports on the Danube the last shipping outlet for millions of tons of grain.