Middle East

Iran acknowledges providing drones to Russia before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine

By Adam Pourahmadi and Sophie Tanno, CNN

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

The statement by Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian comes after previous denials by Tehran that it had supplied Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine, saying it “has not and will not” do so. Amirabdollahian did not say if the drones that were supplied to Moscow were the type that carry explosives.

“Some western countries have accused Iran of helping the war in Ukraine by providing drones and missiles to Russia. The part regarding missiles is completely wrong. The part about drones is correct, we did provide a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of the war in Ukraine,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Tehran.

Self-detonating drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its invasion in late February. They are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and striking only once an enemy asset is identified.

Russia has launched a series of drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks, striking vital civilian infrastructure and sowing terror in Ukrainian cities far from the frontlines of the war. Ukrainian officials said last week that they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.

Officials from a western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program also told CNN that Iran is preparing to send more attack drones, along with surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine.

The last shipment of weapons from Iran to Russia included about 450 drones, officials said, which the Russians have already used to deadly effect in Ukraine.

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

“We agreed with the foreign minister of Ukraine to provide us with any 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 issue, but that the gathering was canceled by Kyiv.

“We had such an appointment 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 attend due to pressure from the US and some European countries, in particular Germany,” Amirabdollahian added.

Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after a drone attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022.
Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after a drone attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022. Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

The Iranian foreign minister said he spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba last week and they agreed to let Iran 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 remain indifferent to this issue,” Amirabdollahian said.

“Our position regarding the war in Ukraine is to cease the war, return the parties to negotiations, and return displaced persons to their homes,” he continued.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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