While Iran has categorically denied allegations that it is sending weapons to Russia amid the Ukraine war, new waves of accusations from western countries still blame Tehran for military assistance to Moscow.
In an interview with CNN this Monday, an official from a European country said under the condition of anonymity that Iran is preparing to send approximately 1,000 additional weapons, including surface-to-surface short range ballistic missiles and more attack drones, to Russia. All the weapons, he official noted, are to be used against Ukraine in its conflict with Russia that broke out in February.
This new upcoming shipment of weapons to Russia, if true, would mark a significant increase in Iranian support to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. The last cargo of weapons from Iran to Russia was sent last month and included about 450 drones. Ukrainian officials said last week that they have shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.
Drones have played a significant role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but their use has increased since this summer when Iran started to send its “loitering munition” to Moscow. The drones have been given this name because they are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and only striking once an enemy asset is identified. They are small, portable and can be easily launched, but their main advantage is that they are hard to detect and can be fired from a distance.
Although Iran has experienced significant improvement in drone production during the recent years, but Iranian officials have been constantly and categorically denying any shipment of any kind of weapons to Russia in the Ukraine war.
In a statement issued by Iran’s foreign ministry in mid-Octiber, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian emphasized that “the Islamic republic of Iran has not and will not provide any weapon to be used in the war in Ukraine.”
Notwithstanding Iran’s denial, accusations still persist
But allegations still persist and western countries, especially the US and Ukraine, are still blaming Iran for delivering weapons to Moscow.
In one of its most recent claims, the US has alleged that Iran has sent not only military equipment, but also military personnel to Crimea to assist Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian targets. Earlier this month John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the presence of Iranian personnel was evidence of Tehran’s direct engagement in the conflict.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel that are based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs, using them to conduct strikes across Ukraine, including strikes against Kyiv,” Kirby said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.
Also last week, a prominent Ukrainian journalist claimed that Tajikistan too is providing Russia with drones to kill Ukrainians. The Foreign Ministry in Dushanbe reacted to the news and released a statement on this Sunday to refute the claims. “The republic of Tajikistan does not export military equipment to third countries,” the ministry said in its statement.
Good to mention that back in May, Iran opened an Ababil-2 production facility in Dushanbe, a facility for manufacturing military drones. Based on these allegations, of which neither the US nor Ukraine have so far been able to bring clear evidence to prove, officials in Washington are trying to pressure Iran on different subjects.
On Monday, for example, the US envoy to Iran Rob Malley said the Biden administration is not going to “waste our time” on talks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran “if nothing’s going to happen regarding Iran’s behavior towards the war in Ukraine.”