An official of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s political party says news of Tehran planning to arm Russia with drones has shocked Ukrainian officials.
Yevheniia Kravchuk who is also a member of the Ukrainian parliament told Iran International Tuesday that Tehran’s decision would lead to the death of more Ukrainian civilians.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan Monday said that Russia wants to obtain hundreds of drones from Iran, both for surveillance and attack, to use in its war in Ukraine.
“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline,” he told reporters Monday, adding that Washington’s information further indicates that Iran is “preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVswith initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July.”
The Iranian foreign ministry gave an evasive answer to a reporter who asked about Sullivan’s statement. “The Islamic Republic’s cooperation with the Russian Federation in some new technologies predates the war in Ukraine and lately there have been no particular new developments,” the ministry spokesman Naser Kanani said.
"The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the war in Ukraine is quite clear and has been officially announced many times," he added, but did not clearly deny the news about delivering drones.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin is to visit Tehran next week.
Tehran has not officially taken side with Russia on Ukraine and says the conflict should be resolved through dialogue but many officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi, have implicitly pointed a finger at Ukraine and accused the country of instigating Russia to attack by seeking to join NATO.
In a televised speech in early March Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Iran was against war in Ukraine but held the US responsible for disrupting stability and "creating a colored coup". Reiterating that the US and Western countries cannot be trusted, Khamenei said Ukraine has fallen victim to US policies and the crises created by Washington without mentioning Russia's invasion in his speech.
Tehran has very close political and military ties with Moscow, whereas its relations with Ukraine have been quite sour since January 2020 when the IRGC shut down a Ukrainian commercial flight near Tehran killing all 176 passengers onboard.
Military analyst Samuel Bendett of the CNA think tank told Associated Press that Russia’s choice of Iran as a source for drones is logical because “for the last 20 years or more Iran has been refining its drone combat force. Their drones have been in more combat than the Russians’.”
Bendett said the Iranian drones could be very effective at striking Ukrainian power stations, refineries and other critical infrastructure. Bendett added that before the Ukraine war, Russia had licensed drone technology for its Forpost UAV from Israel which is no longer supplying them to maintain neutrality.
In early June Moscow said US plans to sell armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine would not change the parameters of Russia’s military operation in the Ukraine. The American drones have not been delivered yet but the Ukrainian military has reportedly not waited and created its own kamikaze drone.