ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — A drone that apparently flew all the way from the Ukrainian war zone crashed overnight on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, Zagreb, triggering a loud blast but causing no injuries, Croatian authorities said Friday.
A statement issued after Croatia’s National Security Council meeting said the “pilotless military aircraft” entered Croatian airspace from neighboring Hungary at a speed of 700 kph (430 mph) and an altitude of 1,300 meters (4,300 feet).
The council said that an official criminal investigation will be launched and that NATO will be informed about the incident. The crash means that the large drone flew at least 350 miles (560 kilometers) apparently undetected by air defenses in Croatia and Hungary, both members of the Western military alliance.
Military experts of The War Zone online magazine said that the aircraft is likely a Soviet-era Tu-141 “Strizh” reconnaissance drone that must have severely malfunctioned and crossed over the entirety of Hungary and into Croatia from Ukraine. It said that Ukraine is the only known current operator of the Tu-141.
Zagreb mayor Tomislav Tomasevic said parts of the flying object are scattered in several locations. He said authorities are working to determine how the incident happened and that initial findings indicated it was an accident.
“No one was hurt and that is good fortune,” said Tomasevic. “It is a relatively big object. … It is amazing that no one was hurt.”
The Croatian police said they came to the scene of the explosion on the outskirts of Zagreb after calls from local citizens. They said they found a large crater and two parachutes in a wooded area. Some parked cars were damaged.
Photos from the scene show metal pieces of the wreckage scattered on the ground, a parachute hanging from tree branches and what seems to be a section of a wing. Police sealed off the area of the blast for investigation. The Tu-141 has parachutes used for soft landings.
Witnesses quoted by the media said they first heard a large explosion that rocked the ground, then a foul smell.
AP writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.
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