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The US publishes new details about cooperation between Russia and Iran on military drones


The White House has released new details about deepening cooperation between Russia and Iran on military drone production, including the supply route Iran is using to send its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the front lines in Ukraine and the location from a possible Russian factory to produce them.

The information is part of a steady stream of declassified intelligence about military ties between Moscow and Tehran as Washington seeks to ramp up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine and starve him of military hardware.

“The drones will be built in Iran, shipped across the Caspian Sea, from Amirabad, Iran, to Makhachkala, Russia, and then used operationally by Russian forces against Ukraine,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council. “We are also concerned that Russia is collaborating with Iran to produce Iranian UAVs from Russia.”

The US has released a satellite image of Russia’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone showing where Moscow is likely to produce Iranian drones. Kirby said the US had information showing that Russia was receiving materials from Iran to build the drone production site.

A satellite image of Russia’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone, where drones are likely to be built, according to the US © Maxar/USA Gov.

“We will continue to use all resources at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities, including by sharing this with the public, and we are ready to do more,” Kirby said.

The US announced a new government advisory on Friday to inform companies and governments about the risks of Iran’s drone program and the illegal ways Tehran is obtaining supplies for it. It has previously blacklisted people and companies it said were involved in transferring Iranian military equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine and has worked with European partners to impose restrictions to prevent electronic components found in Iranian drones end up on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Iranian-made drones have been a key part of Russia’s air campaign against Ukraine, which intensified in October. The UAVs have been used to attack critical infrastructure and residential targets in Kiev, with many of the attacks resulting in the deaths of Ukrainian citizens.

Moscow further escalated its airstrikes on the Ukrainian capital last month, launching dozens of Shahed drones, along with cruise missiles and other missiles, in at least 18 bombings in 31 days.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in one of his evening speeches last month that “about 1,160 Shaheds have been used against Ukraine” and that the air defense had “shot down almost 900 of these drones so far”.

In an appeal to the leadership in Tehran and “every Iranian family,” Zelenskyy also asked “why do you want to be complicit in the Russian terror? . . . Why does Iran need such cynical murders committed by Russian hands, but with your weapons?”

The US released satellite imagery and intelligence last year indicating that Iran had sold hundreds of attack drones to Moscow. Last month, the White House warned that Russia was seeking more strike drones from Iran after it used up most of the 400 drones it previously purchased from Tehran. Russia has received hundreds of one-way strike drones and equipment for drone production from Iran as of May, Kirby said Friday.

President Joe Biden’s administration has also warned that Iran is considering selling hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but no such deal has materialized so far.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said last month that Russia and Iran had “adapted extremely well to US pressure” and would “continue to build a relationship based on mutual benefit and respect, taking into account each other’s interests and concerns.” “. He said Russia “has never been under any illusion” that the US would stop pressuring countries “looking for truly mutually beneficial cooperation”.

Iran has denied taking sides in the war in Ukraine or selling drones to Russia for use on the battlefield. But Iranian military commanders have expressed interest in strengthening military ties with Moscow, particularly buying Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets to revitalize the air force.

Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Riga and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

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