Why is Russia using Iranian drones?
Ukraine has accused Russia of using Iran-made drones during Russia’s recent attacks on Kyiv. Several photos posted online show drones with delta-wings, similar to the Iranian drones with the Russian designation “Geran-2,” are being used instead of their Iranian name: “Shahed-136.”
KyivPost reported that Tehran deployed dozens of military instructors to Crimea and Kherson regions to help the Russian Army launch kamikaze drone attacks. “They targeted residential and business centers and power grid infrastructure,” KyivPost said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday that he was submitting a proposal to the Ukrainian President to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after Russia attacked Ukrainian cities using Iranian drones.
On Monday, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson of the US Department of State, Vedant Patel told reporters that Iranian drone supplies to Russia violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Patel said: “It is our belief that these UAVs that were transferred from Iran to Russia and used by Russia in Ukraine are among the weapons that would remain embargoed under 2231.”
Dismissal by Russia and Iran
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he does not have any information about the drones. Peskov said: “We do not have such information. The hardware that is used is Russian. You know that. It has Russian names. You can address all other questions to the Defense Ministry.”
During a weekly press conference, Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: "The published news about Iran providing Russia with drones has political ambitions and it's circulated by Western sources. We have not provided weaponry to any side of the countries at war."
Faezeh Akbarshahi, in an article she wrote for the Iranian-state-owned PressTV, said that the photos claimed to be the rudder of a Shahed-136 drone are “amateurly-photoshopped.” She claimed that the image is “clearly fake” because of the shapes of the shadows and since the only remaining piece of the rudder includes the “Geran-2” name of the drone.
What are Shahed-136 drones?
The Shahed-136 drones are also called “kamikaze drones” as they dive towards their targets and explode on impact. The drones have a triangular wing and carry 36 kilograms of warhead; can be launched from the back of a truck and have a range of 1,500 miles, the NY Times reported.
The UK Ministry of Defense said that the Ukrainian General Staff claims that 86 drones have been launched by Russia and 60 percent of them were destroyed in the air. “There is a realistic possibility that Russia has achieved some success by attacking with several UAVs at the same time,” The British Ministry of Defense said.
In August, the first batch of drone deliveries arrived in Russia. Iran said that it would not supply either side of the war with military equipment, but the drone deal with Russia was made before the start of the invasion.
Where else have the Iranian Shahed-136 drones been used?
Newsweek reported in 2021 that Iran deployed drones in Northern Yemen in the Al-Jawf province. An expert speaking to Newsweek under the condition of anonymity said that Iran delivered drones to Houthis, a Zaidi Shia Muslim rebel movement also known as the Ansar Allah.
The expert said: "They are forward-deploying or prepositioning these drones in order to stage an attack against a variety of targets they have within range." Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam rejected these claims.
In September, Iran conducted drone strikes against exiled left-wing Kurdish organizations, claiming that Kurdish opposition groups have supported the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran. The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the “drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.”