November 5 (Reuters) – Iran admitted for the first time on Saturday that it had supplied drones to Moscow, but said they were sent ahead of the war in Ukraine, where Russia has used drones to target power plants and civilian infrastructure.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said a “small number” of drones were supplied to Russia in the months before Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
In Iran’s most detailed response to date on drones, Amirabdollahian denied that Tehran continues to supply drones to Moscow.
“This noise by some Western countries that Iran has provided Russia with missiles and drones to help the war in Ukraine – the missile part is completely wrong,” he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
“The drone part is true and we provided Russia with a small number of drones before the Ukraine war,” he said.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has reported an increase in drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, particularly targeting power plants and dams, using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. Russia denies that its forces used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
Last month, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Iran had promised to supply Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, in addition to more drones.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Amirabdollahian as saying that Tehran and Kyiv agreed two weeks ago to discuss allegations of Iran’s use of drones in Ukraine, but the Ukrainians did not attend the agreed meeting.
“We agreed with the Ukrainian foreign minister to provide us with the documents they have that Russia used Iranian drones in Ukraine,” Amirabdollahian said, but the Ukrainian delegation pulled out of the planned meeting at the last minute.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenka responded on Facebook saying that Amirabdollahian was spreading “innuendos about the alleged refusal of the Ukrainian side” and added that “Ukraine is taught to trust only the facts.”
Iran’s foreign minister reiterated that Tehran “will not remain indifferent” if it is proven that Russia used Iranian drones in the war against Ukraine.
The European Union last month agreed new sanctions on Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, while Britain imposed sanctions on three Iranian military figures and a defense manufacturer for supplying Russia with drones designed to attack civilians and infrastructure in Ukraine.
Gulf News Unit reports; Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Edited by Jon Boyle
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.