TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday acknowledged for the first time it provided drones to Russia months before the Ukraine war. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in the capital, Tehran, that Iran "gave a limited number of drones to Russia months before the Ukraine war," reported CNN.
The statement by Iran's Foreign Minister 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.
However, Amir-Abdollahian did not say if the drones that were supplied to Moscow were the type that carries 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," Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in Tehran, reported CNN.
Self-detonating 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.
Russia has launched a series of drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks, striking vital civilian infrastructure. Ukrainian officials said last week that they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones, reported CNN. 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.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the Iranian government to be held accountable, after Tehran admitted to supplying drones to Russia, reported NHK World. He said in a video message on Saturday that Iran claimed drones had been sent before the Russian invasion, but Ukrainian forces "shoot down at least ten Iranian drones every day."
He went on to say, "There will be no such thing in the modern world that any of the terrorists or their accomplices will remain unpunished." Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters on Friday that Iran plans to send Russia 1,500 to 2,400 drones, but Moscow has yet to receive all of them, reported NHK World. Ukraine and Western countries have condemned Tehran for what they see as its support for Russia. The allegations prompted the United States and the EU member nations to impose sanctions on Iran.