Israel giving intel on Russia's Iranian drones to Ukraine - report

A senior Israeli official reportedly also said that a private Israeli firm was giving Ukraine satellite imagery of Russian troop positions. 

 A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)
A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022.
(photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)

Israel has been providing Ukraine with "basic intelligence" on the Iranian drones used by Russia in its invasion, The New York Times said on Wednesday.

A senior Ukrainian official reportedly told the Times about the intelligence sharing, and that a private Israeli firm was also giving Ukraine satellite imagery of Russian troop positions. 

"We are told that there are allegedly no Iranian drones in Ukraine. Well, we’ll find ways to ensure that there aren't any left, indeed."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Russia's use of Iranian drones

Russian forces have been using several variants of Iranian drones in its Ukraine campaign since at least August, Ukrainian, American and UK officials have confirmed in separate intelligence reports.

In particular, Moscow has been using the Shahed-136 suicide drone. However, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has seen limited success.

"These UAVs are slow and fly at low altitudes, making lone aircraft easy to target using conventional air defenses," said the UK Defense Ministry on Wednesday, but noting that "there is a real possibility that Russia has achieved some success by attacking with several UAVs at the same time."

 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)
Diplomatic tensions have risen between Ukraine and Iran over the supply of drones to Russia, seeing the accreditation of the ambassador to Kyiv withdrawn and the diplomatic mission reduced.

Iranian and Russian officials have denied Russia's use of Iranian UAVs in Ukraine. In an October 6 speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mocked the denials, saying that "people see them in the sky. We shoot them down. But we are told that there are allegedly no Iranian drones in Ukraine. Well, we’ll find ways to ensure that there aren't any left, indeed."

The Ukrainian military claims to have shot down many of the Shahed-136s launched by Russia. In a barrage on Monday, 60% of the 86-drone fleet was reportedly shot down.

"These UAVs are slow and fly at low altitudes, making lone aircraft easy to target using conventional air defenses."

UK Defense Ministry

Ukrainian air defense and Iron Dome

NATO allies discussed bolstering Ukraine's air defenses on Wednesday after Russia launched a large missile and drone bombardment of Ukrainian cities on Monday. Nineteen people were killed and 100 were wounded in the attack, and energy infrastructure throughout the country was severely damaged.

Germany has already begun to supply Ukraine with IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, the first of which arrived on Tuesday.

 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)
Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk has previously called on Israel to sell to his country the Iron Dome, the Jewish state's indigenous effective short-range projectile defense platform. 

“We need Israeli assistance... I mean that we need the military-technical support; we need an Iron Dome,... which will allow us to save our civilian women and children from the shelling of the Russian missiles in our territory,” he said in June. 

However, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov disagreed with Korniychuk on the relevance of the Iron Dome for Ukraine. 

"I’ve been to Israel and talked to their manufacturers and state enterprises," he said in July at a Forbes summit. "Iron Dome was built [for protection] against slow, low-altitude, low-impact missiles that were basically made in garages. Iron Dome does not protect against cruise and ballistic missiles.”

“We need Israeli assistance... I mean that we need the military-technical support; we need an Iron Dome."

Ukraines Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk

Israeli aid to Ukraine

In addition to the unconfirmed intelligence aid, Israel has been providing Ukraine with non-combat aid. 

 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)

On July 27, 25,000 meal rations were sent to Ukraine by Israel. On July 14, the Defense Ministry sent 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of mine protection suits, 1,000 gas masks and dozens of hazmat filtration systems. In May, Israel sent 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets for emergency and civilian use.

Israel has been reluctant to provide Ukraine with combat arms due to its concerns over how Russia could respond in Syria. Jerusalem has been conducting an air campaign against Iranian military resources in Syria, and Russia has been conducting joint air patrols with Syrian forces. Analysts have expressed concerns about Russia's hardening of Syrian skies against Israeli incursions over implicit support for Ukraine.

Reuters, Tovah Lazaroff, Anna Ahronheim and Michael Starr contributed to this report.