Iranian instructors in annexed Ukraine help Russia launch drones -Ukraine

Iranians residing in the Kherson and Crimea areas are overseeing and monitoring kamikaze drone launches, says Ukraine.

FOREIGN MINISTERS Sergei Lavrov of Russia (center) Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey (right) and Mohammad Zarif of Iran issued a declaration Tuesday on bringing an end to the Syrian civil war. (photo credit: REUTERS)
FOREIGN MINISTERS Sergei Lavrov of Russia (center) Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey (right) and Mohammad Zarif of Iran issued a declaration Tuesday on bringing an end to the Syrian civil war.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Iranian instructors are overseeing Russian forces launching kamikaze drones from within annexed Ukrainian territory, the Ukrainian National Resistance Center claimed on Wednesday.

"The Russians took Iranian instructors to the territory of the temporarily occupied Kherson Region and Crimea to launch Shahed-136 kamikaze drones," the government body alleged, citing Ukrainian underground resistance. "They teach the Russians how to use kamikaze drones, and directly monitor the launch of drones on Ukrainian civilian targets, including strikes on Mykolaiv and Odesa."

The Ukrainian National Resistance Center said that the Iranian instructors are being housed at the Zaliznyi Port and Hladivtsi in the Kherson region, and in Dzhankoy in Crimea. 

Kherson was annexed by Russia on September 30, and its main city was the first major population center to fall to the Russian invasion. Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 after a surprise seizure of the peninsula. 

"It should be noted that Iran officially denies the supply of drones to the Russian Federation, which it actively uses in the war, attacking Ukraine," said the National Resistance Center. "But, as we can see, Iran helps the aggressor not only with equipment but also with people."

 A part of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian military authorities described as an Iranian made suicide drone Shahed-136 and which was shot down near the town of Kupiansk, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, is seen in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 13, 2022 (credit: THE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTORATE OF THE UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) A part of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian military authorities described as an Iranian made suicide drone Shahed-136 and which was shot down near the town of Kupiansk, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, is seen in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 13, 2022 (credit: THE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTORATE OF THE UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iran denies selling drones

Iran's denials of involvement continued over the weekend, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian telling his Portuguese counterpart that Iran did not sell drones or any weapons to either party to the conflict. 

"We believe that arming either side will prolong the war, and we do not think that war is the right way," Abdullahian said according to Maariv

On Thursday, the EU joined the allegations of Ukrainian, American and UK officials that Iran was selling suicide drones to Ukraine. According to Maariv, an EU report detailed that Russia had grown dependent on Iranian drones. 

On Friday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed that Russia intended to purchase "several thousand" more Iranian drones. 

"The Russians took Iranian instructors to the territory of the temporarily occupied Kherson Region and Crimea to launch Shahed-136 kamikaze drones."

Ukrainian underground resistance

EU sanctions over drones?

EU foreign Ministers are expected to discuss Iran's sale of UAVs to Russia on Monday, and if it will result in sanctions over this activity, Reuters reported on Friday. It is unclear how allegations of Iranian instructors working in Ukraine will impact the deliberations. 

Ukraine has reported a spate of Russian attacks using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks. 

Three drones operated by Russian forces attacked the small town of Makariv, west of Ukraine's capital, early on Thursday, with officials saying that critical infrastructure facilities were struck by what they said were Iranian-made suicide drones.

According to diplomats citing preparatory meetings ahead of Monday's ministerial meeting in Luxembourg, an analysis of the drone activity has been carried out with the topic now on the agenda.

A diplomatic source said the drones in question fell under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal political understanding among some 35 states that seeks to limit the proliferation of missiles, missile technology and drones, sales of which would violate the resolution.

The resolution makes no mention of the MTCR, but refers to a letter presented by the United States to the Security Council on the MTCR dated a day after the nuclear deal. Iran is not party to the MTCR, but Russia is in addition to being the MTCR's current chair.

The United States on September 9 imposed sanctions on an Iranian company it accused of coordinating military flights to transport Iranian drones to Russia and three other companies it said were involved in the production of Iranian drones.