Iran says it shipped drones to Russia before Ukraine war

Nov 5 (Reuters) – Iran acknowledged for the first time on Saturday that it had supplied drones to Moscow, but said they were sent before the war in Ukraine and that Russia had used them to target power stations and civilian infrastructure.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdullahian said a “small number” of drones had been delivered in the months before Russia’s February 24 invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Tehran of lying, saying the Kyiv army shot down at least 10 drones a day.

In Iran’s most detailed response to date, Amirabdollahian denied that Tehran continued to supply Moscow with drones.

“Some Western countries are making a fuss that Iran is supplying Russia with missiles and drones to help the war in Ukraine – the missile part is completely wrong,” he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

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“The drone part is real, we provided Russia with a small number of drones in the months before the war in Ukraine,” he said.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has reported a surge in drone attacks on civilian infrastructure using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, particularly targeting power stations and dams. Russia denies its military used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.

In video remarks, Zelensky dismissed claims of limited Iranian supplies to Russia, saying Ukraine shot down 11 drones on Friday alone.

“If Iran continues to lie about the obvious, it means the world will work harder to investigate terrorist cooperation between Russia and the Iranian regime and what Russia pays Iran for that cooperation,” he said.

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Separately, U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Marley tweeted that it was unreal that Iran sent several drones.

“They moved dozens of people this summer alone and placed military personnel in occupied Ukraine to help Russia use them,” he said.

Zelensky, who has repeatedly urged allies to strengthen their defenses against aircraft and missiles, said he expected “good news” in the coming weeks, but gave no details. He added that Kyiv will launch a fundraising campaign next week to buy maritime drones.

In addition to more drones, Iran has pledged to supply Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters last month.

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IRNA quoted Amirabdollahian as saying that Tehran and Kyiv had agreed to discuss allegations of the use of Iranian drones, but the Ukrainians were not present at the talks.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, responded on Facebook that Amira Budorashian was spreading “hints about the Ukrainian side’s refusal.”

Amirabdollahian reiterated that Tehran “will not remain indifferent” if it is proven that Russia has used Iranian drones against Ukraine.

The European Union last month agreed to impose new sanctions on Iran over drone deliveries, and Britain has imposed sanctions on three Iranian military figures and a defense manufacturer.

Reporting by Gulf Newsroom; Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk and David Ljunggren; Editing by Jon Boyle and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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