Iran is preparing to send approximately 1000 additional weapons, including surface-to-surface short range ballistic missiles and more attack drones, to Russia to use in its invasion of Ukraine, CNN reports.
The shipment is being closely monitored as it would be the first instance of Iran sending advanced precision guided missiles to Russia, which could give the Kremlin a substantial advantage on the battlefield.
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. Ukrainian officials said last week that they have shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.
This new expected shipment would mark a significant increase in Iranian support to Russia’s war effort. While the precise timing of when the shipment will arrive in Russia is unclear, officials believe the weapons will definitely be delivered before the end of the year.
Drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, but their use has increased since the summer, when the United States and Kiev say Moscow acquired drones from Iran. In recent weeks these Iranian drones have been used to target critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine.
The Iranian drones are known as a „loitering munition” because they are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and only striking once an enemy asset is identified. They are small, portable and can be easily launched, but their main advantage is that they are hard to detect and can be fired from a distance.
The US has also alleged that Iran has sent military personnel to Crimea to assist Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian targets.
Sending further Iranian weaponry to Russia is a move that will likely cause relations with the US to further deteriorate. On Monday, the US envoy to Iran Rob Malley said the Biden administration is not going to “waste our time” on talks to revive the nuclear deal „if nothing’s going to happen”. Tehran’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war and its crackdown on nationwide protests prompted by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September have prompted the US to impose further sanctions on Iran.
Earlier this month John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the presence of Iranian personnel was evidence of Tehran’s direct engagement in the conflict.
„We can confirm that Russian military personnel that are based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs, using them to conduct strikes across Ukraine, including strikes against Kiev”, Kirby said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.