There has been an alarming new escalation in the war in Ukraine, after it emerged that Russia and Iran had struck a secret deal to produce new “attack drones”.
The growing ties between the two rogue nations have been under the spotlight recently, after it was revealed last month that members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were in Russian-occupied Crimea to help teach Vladimir Putin’s troops how to operate an arsenal of Iranian drones which had been purchased recently.
The first load of Iranian drones arrived in August, and the order included Shaheds – single-use drones designed to detonate and obliterate targets, which have a range of more than 1600km – as well as Mohajer-6 drones, which are capable of carrying four missiles.
Initially, Iran had denied sending drones to Russia in the lead-up to the invasion, but earlier this month, the government finally confirmed the rumours were true.
“Some Western countries have accused Iran of helping the war in Ukraine by providing drones … we did provide a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of the war in Ukraine,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told the media at the time.
But now, the relationship has stepped up a notch further, with the two states planning to work together to produce the weapons on Russian soil.
According to the Washington Post, intelligence revealed the agreement – which was struck early this month – will see “hundreds of unmanned weaponised aircraft” manufactured in Russia, with designs and “key components” currently being transferred.
In a statement sent to the publication, US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said it was a worrying development.
“Iran and Russia can lie to the world, but they can’t hide the facts: Tehran is helping kill Ukrainian civilians through the provision of weapons and assisting Russia in its operations. It’s another sign of how isolated both Iran and Russia are,” the statement reads.
“The United States – with allies and partners – is pursuing all means to expose, deter and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions and Russia’s use of them against the Ukrainian people.
“We will continue to provide Ukraine with the critical security assistance it needs to defend itself, including air defence systems.”
The ability to produce the drones in Russia will allow the country to seriously boost its cache of weapons, with drones becoming an increasingly crucial element in the invasion of Ukraine.
In fact, in the past three months, more than 400 Iranian-made drones have been used against the nation, with civilian infrastructure increasingly being targeted.
However, Iran has repeatedly insisted it was neutral in the war, despite working closely to assist Russia, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to slam the country’s “complicity in Russian terror”.
According to CNN, the Iranian drones are “capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and only striking once an enemy asset is identified”, and are considered to be assets as they are “small, portable and can be easily launched”, as well as being “hard to detect and can be fired from a distance”.
The new development comes after the Institute for the Study of War’s Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment recently said the Iranian involvement in the invasion was “enabling likely Russian war crimes”.
“Russian forces have directed dozens of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones against civilian targets in Ukraine since mid-September, prioritising creating psychological terror effects on Ukrainian civilians rather than achieving tangible battlefield effects,” the report said.