Iran admits to supplying Russia with drones before the war in Ukraine
Nov 5 (Reuters) – Iran admitted for the first time on Saturday that it supplied drones to Moscow, but said they were sent before the war to Ukraine, where Russia has used drones to target power plants and civilian infrastructure.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said a “small number” of drones were delivered to Russia several months before Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
In Iran’s most detailed drone response to date, Amirabdollahian denied that Tehran was still supplying drones to Moscow.
“This fuss made by some Western countries that Iran has supplied missiles and drones to Russia to help the war in Ukraine – the missile part is completely wrong,” he said, as quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
“The drone part is correct and we gave Russia a small number of drones months before the war in Ukraine,” he said.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has reported an increase in drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, particularly targeting power plants and dams, using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. Russia denies that its forces used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
Last month, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missilesin addition to more drones.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Amirabdollahian as saying that Tehran and Kiev agreed to discuss allegations of Iranian drone use in Ukraine two weeks ago, but the Ukrainians did not show up for the agreed meeting.
“We agreed with the foreign minister of Ukraine to provide us with the documents they have that Russia used Iranian drones in Ukraine,” Amirabdollahian said, but the Ukrainian delegation pulled out of the planned meeting at the last minute.
In a Facebook response, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Amirabdollahian was spreading “insinuations about the alleged rejection of the Ukrainian side” and added that “Ukraine has been taught to believe only facts.”
Iran’s foreign minister reiterated that Tehran “will not remain indifferent” if it is proven that Russia used Iranian drones in the war against Ukraine.
Last month, the European Union agreed new sanctions on Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, and Britain imposed sanctions on three Iranian military figures and a defense manufacturer for supplying Russia with drones to attack civilian and infrastructure targets in Ukraine.
Gulf newsroom reporting; Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Jon Boyle
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