(Reuters) – Iran admitted for the first time on Saturday that it had provided Moscow with drones, but said they were sent before the war in Ukraine, where Russia used drones to target power stations and civilian infrastructure.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabadollahian, said a “small number” of drones had been supplied to Russia a few months before Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
In Iran’s most detailed response yet to the drones, Amirollahian denied Tehran’s continued supply of drones to Moscow.
“This commotion made by some Western countries that Iran provided missiles and drones to Russia to help in the war in Ukraine – the missile part is completely wrong,” he was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.
“The drone part is correct and Russia supplied us with a small number of drones months before the Ukraine war,” he said.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has reported an uptick in drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, in particular targeting power plants and dams, using Iranian-made Shahed-136 aircraft. Russia denies that its forces have used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
Last month, two Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, as well as more drones.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Amir Rabadalahian as saying that Tehran and Kiev had agreed to discuss the allegations of the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine two weeks ago, but the Ukrainians did not attend the agreed meeting.
“We agreed with Ukraine’s foreign minister to provide us with documents they have that Russia used Iranian drones in Ukraine,” said Amirabadollahian, but the Ukrainian delegation withdrew from the planned meeting at the last minute.
In a response on Facebook, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Amirbad Lahyan was spreading “hints about an alleged refusal on the Ukrainian side” and added that “Ukraine is considering to trust only facts.”
The Iranian foreign minister reiterated that Tehran “will not remain indifferent” if it is proven that Russia used Iranian drones in the war against Ukraine.
Last month, the European Union approved new sanctions on Iran over the delivery of drones to Russia, and Britain imposed sanctions on three Iranian military figures and a defense company for providing Russia with drones to attack civilian and infrastructure-related targets in Ukraine.
Reporting by the Gulf Newsroom. Additional reporting by Dan Belichuk. Editing by John Boyle
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