The Iranian government acknowledged for the first time Saturday that it had sent a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of its invasion of Ukraine.
The statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian comes after previous denials by Tehran that it had supplied Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine, saying it “has not and will not” do so. Amirabdollahian did not say if the drones that were supplied to Moscow were the type that carry explosives.
“Some western countries have accused Iran of helping the war in Ukraine by providing drones and missiles to Russia. The part regarding missiles is completely wrong. The part about drones is correct, we did provide a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of the war in Ukraine,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Tehran.
Self-detonating drones, also known as “suicide drones,” have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its invasion in late February. They are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and striking only once an enemy asset is identified.
Some context: Russia has launched a series of drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks, striking vital civilian infrastructure and sowing terror in Ukrainian cities far from the frontlines of the war. Ukrainian officials said last week that they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.
Officials from a Western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program also told CNN that Iran is preparing to send more attack drones, along with surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine.
The last shipment of weapons from Iran to Russia included about 450 drones, officials said, which the Russians have already used to deadly effect in Ukraine.