Iranian drones to be built in Russia – report

Western intelligence sources told the Washington Post that the deal will allow Moscow to produce the UAVs for its war against Ukraine within months.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Tehran and Moscow inked a deal earlier this month to start building hundreds of Iranian-designed attack drones in Russia, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Citing officials who have access to U.S. and Western intelligence, the paper said that production of the deadly UAVs could begin within months, as “the two countries are moving rapidly to transfer [the] designs and key components.”

“It is proceeding quickly from decision-making to implementation,” one official said. “It is moving fast and it has lot of steam.”

According to intelligence sources, Moscow already has bought some 1,700 Iranian kamikaze drones, and has used about 400 of them. The Mohajer-6 reconnaissance drone has four precision-guided missiles, while the Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 varieties are packed with up to 40 kilos of explosives, and have been slamming into electricity, water and gas grids over the last few weeks in a new stage of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal admitted Friday that “Almost half of our energy system is disabled” by the barrages. The capital of Kyiv has been among the hardest hit, with city officials saying its power grid was facing a possible “complete shutdown,” in the face of the below-zero temperatures that have already gripped the country.

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The agreement is a win-win for the two countries, which have been heavily hit by international sanctions. Russia receives the ability to replenish its dwindling air weapons’ stock quickly and even more cheaply than the attack drones’ list price of some $20,000.

Iran gets much-needed cash – and possibly some measure of deniability, according to the unnamed officials.

They explained that since Europe has been threatening to increase restrictions on Iran due to its export of military drones to Moscow, the mullahs “may believe” that if they are instead manufactured outside the country, Western countries won’t pull a new sanctions trigger.

U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231 bans Iran from transferring “all items, materials, equipment and goods and technology” to another country without specific UNSC approval.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against three companies and two individuals involved in the manufacture and transfer of drones from Iran to Russia, including the producer of the Shahed series of UAVs.

Kyiv has either received or is set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of air-defense systems from seven countries, including the U.S. and Great Britain, which can work against drones and the more deadly missiles. While Israel has refused President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for its Iron Dome systems, it has provided Ukraine with intelligence information on the Iranian drones and has offered to help Ukraine build its own air defenses.

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Iran is still officially claiming neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.