Ukrain’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says Tehran supports Moscow with drones in its invasion in exchange for getting assistance to develop its nuclear program.
Addressing the Haaretz Democracy Conference on Monday, Zelensky said that the Islamic Republic would have not been able to send equipment to Russia if Israel had not decided to stay neutral in the Ukraine war.
“In eight months of full-scale war, Russia has used almost 4,500 missiles against us. And their stock of missiles is dwindling. Therefore, Russia went looking for affordable weapons in other countries to continue its terror. It found them in Iran,” noted Zelensky.
The Ukrainian president further noted that “I have a question for you – how does Russia pay Iran for this, in your opinion? Is Iran just interested in money? Probably not money at all, but Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear program. Probably, this is exactly the meaning of their alliance.”
Although Zelensky did not offer any evidence, Russia has built Iran’s sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr and has a contract to expand the plant with the addition of two new reactors at a cost of $10 billion.
Zelensky’s comments come as the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Intelligence Directorate said Monday that Russia's mobilized soldiers are being provided with Iranian-made body armors and helmets, and new groups of “advisers” are also arriving in Russia to train them on the use of a new and more lethal type of drones, Arash UAVs.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov stated that “Russian forces have used most of their cruise missile arsenal and only have 13 percent of their pre-war Iskander, 43 percent of Kaliber, and 45 percent of Kh-101 and Kh-555 pre-war stockpiles left.”
Budanov added that with the supply of cruise missiles dwindling Russian military relies on Iranian drones, but Tehran can send 300 drones per shipment as it takes a long time to manufacture the drones.
In remarks reported Monday, Iran’s foreign minister appeared to accept as possible, despite past denials, that Moscow had used Iranian drones in Ukraine.
“If it is proven to us that Iranian drones are being used in the Ukraine war against people, we should not remain indifferent,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, as reported by Reuters.
The Iranian foreign ministry website and official news agencies last Friday reported Amir-Abdollahian denying claims at a European summit last week that Iran had supplied Russia with military drones deployed in the Ukraine war.
Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba officially asked for air defense systems and training from Israel’s Foreign Ministry in the face of attacks launched by Iranian Shahed drones. Yet, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed “that we are not selling weapons to Ukraine.”
However, Israeli Prime Minister told Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Tel Aviv is increasingly concerned by the “dangerous closeness” between Moscow and Tehran over the supply of Iran-made drones to attack Ukraine.
Lapid said Israel is holding daily assessments to review its position on the conflict, adding that “It’s not something we are going to ignore or do nothing about… so what we need to do is reassess on a daily basis and react.”
Meanwhile, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that Iran was making the world less safe by supplying Russia with drones to be used against targets in Ukraine.
The US has been “trying for a while now to have a nuclear agreement with Iran so that we can make the world a safer place and now they're going off aiding the Russians and making the world a less safe place,” added Pelosi.
With the long suspension of negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, Iran is now accused of involvement in the Ukraine war. On the other hand, Tehran’s crackdown on domestic protests is also drawing attention from the international community raising the possibility of more isolation and sanctions for Iran.
An Iranian daily on Tuesday said that the developments of the war in Ukraine are in an alarming way to the detriment of Iran.
Aftabnews warned the Iranian government that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an aggressive move to occupy an independent UN member state and the governments that support the aggressor will be considered violators of international law.
“It is said that the United States and three European countries have interpreted the provision of drones by Iran as a violation of UN Resolution 2231. If proved after investigations, it will justify and legitimize the activation of the snapback mechanism against Iran in the JCPOA agreement,” Aftabnews added.
If the snapback mechanism would be triggered, Iran will return to Chapter Seven of the UN Charter and all sanctions in place before the 2015 nuclear deal would be automatically reimposed on Iran.