There was no insinuation from Romanian officials that the fragments were from an intentional strike that might lead to a response from NATO. But this and other incidents of war debris falling into countries bordering Ukraine highlight the continued risk of escalation.
Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels expressed solidarity with Romania.
“Since last year, in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO has significantly increased its presence in the Black Sea region,” spokesperson Dylan White said Wednesday. “We continue to monitor the situation closely, and we remain in close contact with our Ally Romania.”
In recent weeks, Russia has stepped up its attacks on Ukrainian ports and grain silos on the banks of the River Danube, which runs along the Romanian-Ukrainian border before flowing into the Black Sea. Iohannis on Wednesday branded the strikes on infrastructure a “war crime.”
The proximity of the strikes to Romania has caused jitters for NATO, for which an attack on one member can be considered an attack on all through its mutual defense clause.
On Wednesday, European leaders were meeting in Bucharest for a previously scheduled summit to boost ties in the face of Russia’s aggression on the continent
The discovery of drone fragments came after Romania’s Defense Ministry on Monday “categorically denied” statements from Ukrainian officials that a drone had fallen on its territory.
Despite the denials, investigators had been scouring border areas for debris for “a few days,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Constantin Spanu.
Wednesday’s announcement wasn’t necessarily a reversal, officials said, as strikes had continued, and it was unclear when the fragments had landed.
The debris was found in the vicinity of the village of Plauru, according to the Defense Ministry. The village lies on the banks of the Danube opposite the Ukrainian town of Izmail, which has been targeted by Russia several times in recent days, according to local officials. Additional measures will be taken to strengthen the monitoring and security capabilities of Romania’s airspace at its borders, the ministry said.
Earlier this year, the remnants of a missile believed by investigators to have been fired by Russia was found in a Polish forest more than 300 miles from Ukraine. Polish officials said it was likely to have been there for several months before being discovered.
In a more high-stakes incident in November, two agricultural workers were killed a few miles inside Poland by an errant missile. The missile was fired by an S-300 surface-to-air missile system, used by both Russia and Ukraine, and Poland refrained from any action under NATO’s framework after concluding that there was no evidence it had been fired by Russia.
Spanu said Wednesday it was too early to comment on any procedural steps that Romania might take under NATO’s Article 4, under which member states can bring forward an issue of security concern for discussion among members, or Article 5 which can be invoked in the case of an armed attack.
Emily Rauhala in Brussels contributed to this report.