Ukraine to slash ties with Iran over 'unfriendly' drones supply to Russia

Military experts say the drones would be useful to Russia for both reconnaissances and as loitering munitions that can bide their time in locating and engaging suitable targets.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks near captured Russian tanks with installed Ukrainian flags, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 19, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)
A Ukrainian serviceman walks near captured Russian tanks with installed Ukrainian flags, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

Iran is planning "proportional action" in response to Ukraine's decision to downgrade diplomatic ties over the reported supply of Iranian drones to Russia, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.

Nasser Kanaani said Ukraine should "refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries," a ministry statement said.

Ukraine said on Friday that it would withdraw accreditation of the Iranian ambassador and significantly reduce the number of diplomatic staff at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv over Tehran's decision to supply Russian forces with drones, a move President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called "a collaboration with evil."

Kanaani said Ukraine's decision was "based on unconfirmed reports and resulted from a media hype by foreign parties."

He did not directly refer to drones. Iran has previously denied supplying drones to Russia, but the hardline daily Kayhan said on Saturday "hundreds of armed drones" have been sold.

Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018 (credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018 (credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)

"For a while now, Iranian drones have been carrying out operations in Ukraine's skies against NATO," said the newspaper, whose head is appointed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What have military officials said?

Military authorities in southern Ukraine said on Saturday they had shot down at least seven Iranian drones, including six Shahed-136 "kamikaze" craft over the sea near the ports of Odesa and Pivdennyi on Friday.

These included - for the first time in Ukraine - a Mohajer-6, a larger Iranian drone, the southern military command said.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an English language tweet on Saturday that Iran was supporting Russia "by giving modern drones to (a) backward country for the murders of Ukrainians."