Iranian drones: Tehran admits to supplying drones to Russia before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine



CNN

The Iranian government admitted for the first time on Saturday that it had sent a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before its invasion of Ukraine.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian’s statement follows Tehran’s earlier denial that it has provided Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine, saying it “has not and will not” do so. Amirabdollahian did not say whether the drones delivered to Moscow were of the type that carried explosives.

“Some Western countries have accused Iran of aiding the war in Ukraine by supplying Russia with drones and missiles. The part about rockets is completely wrong. The part about drones is correct, we supplied a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the war in Ukraine started,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Tehran.

Self-exploding drones have played an important role in the conflict since Russia launched its invasion in late February. They are able to circle for a period of time in an area identified as a potential target and strike only when an enemy asset has been identified.

Russia has carried out a series of drone strikes across Ukraine in recent weeks, hitting critical civilian infrastructure and terrorizing Ukrainian cities far from the front lines of the war. Ukrainian officials said last week that they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.

Western officials who closely monitor Iran’s weapons program also told CNN that Iran is preparing to send more attack drones, along with surface-to-surface short-range missiles, to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine.

The latest arms shipment from Iran to Russia included about 450 drones, officials said, which Russia has already used to deadly effect in Ukraine.

Amirabdollahian claimed that Tehran had reached an agreement with Ukraine to review evidence that Russia had used Iranian drones in the war.

“We reached an agreement with Ukraine’s foreign minister to provide us with all the documents they have that Russia used Iranian drones in Ukraine,” he said, adding that an Iranian delegation had planned to meet with Ukrainian officials in Europe to discuss the matter, but that the Assembly was canceled by Kyiv.

“We received such an order two weeks ago in a European country, a military and political delegation went to that European country, but unfortunately at the last minute the Ukrainian delegation did not come due to pressure from the United States and some European countries, especially Germany,” Amirabdollahian added.

Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after a drone strike in Kyiv on October 17, 2022.

The Iranian foreign minister said he spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba last week and they agreed to allow Iran to review any evidence Ukraine has in the coming days.

“Of course, if it is proven that Russia used Iranian drones in the war against Ukraine, we will not be indifferent to this issue,” Amirabdollahian said.

“Our position on the war in Ukraine is to stop the war, bring the parties back to negotiations and return the refugees to their homes,” he continued.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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