A Russian team visiting Iran to gain expertise on drone manufacturing had to shelter in their hotel after an Israeli strike targeted a weapons factory in Isfahan in January, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The team was part of efforts to establish a drone production facility in Russia which the help of Iran, which would produce a variant of the Iranian Shahed-136 drone known as the Geran 2.
The new facility, located in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in the Republic of Tatarstan about 900 km east of Moscow, is intended to produce drones on a larger scale than Iran, but so far is at least a month behind schedule and is seemingly still unable to produce full drones.
The Washington Post obtained documents revealing information about the Alabuga facility from an individual involved in the efforts at the site who is opposed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
“This was the only thing I could do to at least stop and maybe create some obstacles to the implementation of this project,” said the individual to the Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It has gone too far.”
Russia making progress in domestically producing variants of Iranian drones
The Conflict Armament Research weapons-tracking group reported that after examining two drones downed in Ukraine in July, the design and key components of the drones appear to show that Russia has begun producing and using its own domestically-produced version of the Shahed-136.
The documents obtained by the Washington Post were reviewed by the Institute for Science and International Security at the request of the newspaper. According to the Institute, the documents show that Alabuga has been "highly dependent" on Iran for designs, manufacturing, and quality control.
According to the report, hundreds of Russian employees and students have been sent to Iran to receive relevant training.
Alleged Israeli strike in Isfahan disrupted Russian training visit
While one of those groups was visiting Isfahan in January, a drone strike which Iran blamed on Israel targeted a weapons factory in the city. While Iran's Defense Ministry claimed the strike was unsuccessful, video from the scene showed a large explosion hitting the roof of the facility, which is believed to have been linked to the production of drones and missiles.
According to the report, the Alabuga team was forbidden from leaving their hotel after the strike as Iranian officials were concerned further strikes might target facilities the group was set to tour.