Iran helps Moscow build drone factory in Russia, US says


Iran is sending materials to Russia to help Moscow build a drone manufacturing plant that could be operational as soon as next year, as part of a “deepened” military partnership between the two countries, the Biden administration said on Friday. The officials also said that Tehran provided hundreds of armed drones to Russia last month for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Warning of growing defense ties between Iran and Russia, the Biden administration released a satellite photo of what it believes to be the planned location of a drone production plant in the Alabuga special economic zone in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.

The White House also outlined how Iranian-made drones are transported to Russia and released a graphic to illustrate the route. The drones “are shipped across the Caspian Sea, from Amirabad, Iran, to Makhachkala, Russia, and are then used operationally by Russian forces against Ukraine,” John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman, said in a statement. a statement.

A graphic produced by the White House illustrates the route Iranian-made drones take as they are shipped across the Caspian Sea from Amirabad, Iran, to Makhachkala, Russia. They are then used operationally to attack Ukraine from Russian military bases. White House

“As of May, Russia has received hundreds of one-way attack UAVs, as well as equipment related to UAV production, from Iran,” Kirby added, using a military acronym for drones, unmanned aerial vehicles.

Kirby said that Russia had used Iranian drones in recent weeks to attack Kiev, which has seen a large increase in airstrikes. He said that Moscow has been “offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including in missiles, electronics and air defense” in exchange for Iran supplying Russia with kamikaze drones.

Iran has denied providing Russia with drones for the war in Ukraine, but has announced plans to step up its defense cooperation with Moscow, including the purchase of Russian fighter jets and other military equipment. The Russian embassy in Washington and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In March, Iran announced a deal to buy Russian Su-35 fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of military jets. Iran has also expressed interest in buying Russian YAK-130 attack helicopters, radars and combat trainer aircraft.

A satellite photo and graphic showing where US intelligence indicates Moscow and Tehran plan to build a drone production facility in Russia
A satellite photo and graphic showing where US intelligence indicates Moscow and Tehran plan to build a drone production facility in Russia’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone. White House

“In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Russia,” Kirby said, calling the terms “a large-scale defense partnership that is detrimental to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors and to the international community”.

The statement was the latest example of the Biden administration releasing intelligence to try to undermine the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States has imposed a series of sanctions on organizations or individuals allegedly involved in the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia and has issued export controls to try to prevent Russia from obtaining the electronic components needed to operate Iranian drones.

The administration also issued an advisory to “assist governments and companies in implementing measures to ensure that they are not inadvertently contributing to Iran’s UAV program.” The officials also said the United States is working to provide Ukraine with the necessary air defense systems to counter Russian missile and drone attacks.

Henry Rome, a senior fellow at Washington’s Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank, said Iran’s supply of drones to Russia presents a “difficult problem for Western powers, given the direct air and sea routes between Iran and Russia”.

“We can try to expose and deter this activity and ultimately complicate the relationship by restricting technology flows,” Rome said. “But these steps may take time to bear fruit.

Carol E. read contributed.

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