Moscow denies using Iranian technology, saying it fields its own unmanned aircraft
The US on Monday accused Iran of breaching the conditions of the 2015 nuclear deal with the West by selling ‘kamikaze’ drones to Russia. Moscow stated that it is only using “Russian hardware.”
Russia has used autonomous loitering munitions to devastating effect in its attacks on Ukrainian military and energy infrastructure in recent weeks. Flying at low altitude, these unmanned aircraft can evade traditional air defense systems before dive bombing their targets, and are rumored to cost a fraction of the price of the missiles Kiev’s forces fire to intercept them.
The distinctive delta-wing design of the drones has led Ukrainian and Western officials to claim that they are Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs.
“Earlier today our French and British allies publicly offered the assessment that Iran’s supply of these UAVs [to] Russia is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231,” US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Monday. “This is something that we agree with.”
Adopted in 2015, Security Council resolution 2231 sets out the terms of Iran’s nuclear deal with the US, UK, China, France, Germany and Russia, in which it agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The resolution includes embargoes on Iranian arms exports, and although the US unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018, Washington argues that an embargo on missile parts covers drone exports, and is valid until 2023.
Tehran has denied providing arms to either side of the conflict in Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that he had received “no information” concerning the alleged use of Iranian drones in Ukraine.
“Russian hardware is being used,” he said, adding: “you know it well. It has Russian designations.”
Photographs of wreckage from blast sites in Ukraine show the drones bearing the Russian designation ‘Geran-2’, allegedly a localized version of the Shahed-136.
Russia’s use of the so-called ‘kamikaze’ drones has sparked panic in Ukraine, with video footage showing troops desperately firing at them with small arms. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has argued that Ukraine needs newer and more advanced air defense weapons from the West to counter the threat, although the Pentagon has no effective method of defending against these drones at present.