For months, Russia has been targeting non-military infrastructure and residential areas in Ukraine using Iranian-made drones on a large scale. The Ukrainian Air Force has also shot down hundreds of Iranian drones. Western countries have confirmed this and have imposed several sanctions against Iran as a result.
The European Union imposed sanctions on February 25 against seven Iranian weapons manufacturers and four individuals in Iran for providing drones to Russia, which were then used to attack both government and civilian targets in Ukraine. The sanctions targeted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, six defense companies connected to the Iranian regime government, and high-ranking executives in Iran’s drone industry. Iran exported a significant number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) between August 2022 and February 2023, including Shahed suicide/kamikaze drones and Mohajer reconnaissance and strike drones. The United States imposed more than two dozen sanctions in eight different rounds between September 2022 and April 2023, targeting Iranian drone manufacturers, the IRGC Aerospace Force, and the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force closely linked to the Kremlin.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on May 15 that Iran “remains Russia’s top military backer, and Iran has already provided Russia with artillery and tank rounds for use in Ukraine.”
Patel said that since August “Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 UAVs, primarily of the Shahed variety, and Russia has expended most of these UAVs using them to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure inside Ukraine.”
“The deepening of this cooperation is a threat and a danger to not just Ukraine, but a threat and a danger to Russia’s neighbors, Iran’s neighbors, and the international community broadly,” Patel told reporters.
On May 15, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing that the Russia-Iran ties allow Russia to kill more people in Ukraine while enabling Iran to stockpile military hardware and pose a greater threat to its neighbors.
For a long time, the Iranian regime concealed its shipment of drones to Russia. However, according to the regime’s official IRNA news agency, on November 5, 2022, the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian admitted to reporters that the regime had provided Russia with a “limited number of drones.”
Amir-Abdollahian claimed that these drones had been delivered to Russia “months before the start of war in Ukraine.” Apparently, the purchase of the drones from Iran was finalized during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran in July 2022.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on July 16, 2022, that the administration has “information that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs.” “We assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs. We are releasing these images captured in June showing Iranian UAVs that the Russian government delegation saw that day,” Sullivan added. “This suggests ongoing Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable UAVs,” Sullivan explained.
Kyiv has repeatedly reported the use of Iran’s Shahed 136 drones by the Russian military to attack non-nuclear facilities and targets in Ukraine.
The Shahed 136, or Geran-2 in Russian service, also called a suicide or kamikaze drone, is an Iranian loitering munition in the form of an autonomous pusher-prop drone.
Reports suggest that with the depletion of its previous stock of drones purchased from the Iranian regime, Russia intends to buy more drones.
“Iran also continues to provide Russia with one-way attack UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Since August, Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 UAVs primarily of the Shahed variety,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on May 15.
“Russia has expended most of these UAVs, using them to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure inside Ukraine. By providing Russia with these UAVs, Iran has been directly enabling Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” Kirby added.
The most recent disclosure is one of many intelligence findings being gradually released by the administration, aimed at revealing what U.S. officials describe as an increasingly close defense alliance between Moscow and Tehran.
According to U.S. officials, Iran has also been supplying Russia with artillery and tank rounds to support its invasion of Ukraine.
“This is a full-scale defense partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to the region in the Middle East and to the international community,” said Kirby and added that Iran has been “Russia’s top military backer” since the start of the Ukraine invasion.
Iran is attempting to acquire more military hardware from Russia, such as attack helicopters, radars, and YAK-130 combat trainer planes. Additionally, Iran recently announced that it had concluded negotiations to purchase Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.
“In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from Russia,” Kirby said.