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US, Allies to Raise Iranian Drone Transfers to Russia at UN

Published: October 18, 2022
Press and police members stand on the crossroad at an area which was attacked by “kamikaze drones” on Oct. 17, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Image: Elizabeth Servatynska/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC "UA:PBC"/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

The United States, Britain and France plan to raise alleged Iranian arms transfers to Russia at a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, diplomats said, after Ukraine said Russia’s having obtained drones violated a Council resolution.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomats said the three — which also believe such transfers violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 — told their Council counterparts they would ask a U.N. official to brief members on the issue.

Separately, Ukraine has invited U.N. experts to inspect what it says are downed Iranian-origin drones used by Russia to attack Ukrainian targets in violation of that resolution, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Russia launched dozens of “kamikaze” drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Ukraine on Monday, hitting energy infrastructure and killing five people in the capital Kyiv.

Ukraine says they are Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones – loitering munitions that cruise towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact. Kyiv moved on Tuesday to cut ties with Iran because of their use.

Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow and the Kremlin has not commented. Washington says Iran’s denial is a lie.

Two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface to surface missiles, in addition to more drones.

“We would like to invite UN experts to visit Ukraine at the earliest possible opportunity to inspect recovered Iranian-origin UAVs in order to facilitate implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2231,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said in a letter distributed to Council members on Tuesday.

The letter, dated Oct. 14, says in late August Shahed- and Mohajer-series drones were transferred to Russia in what Ukraine and major Western powers regard as a violation of resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The pact between Iran and six major powers limited Tehran’s uranium enrichment activity, making it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms, while lifting economic sanctions.

Under the resolution, a conventional arms embargo on Iran was in place until October 2020. Despite U.S. efforts under former president Donald Trump, who took Washington out of the deal in 2018, to extend the arms embargo, the Security Council rejected this, allowing Iran to resume arms exports.

However, Ukraine, along with the United States, argue the resolution still includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies that last until October 2023 and can encompass the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.

In the letter, Ukraine said “both Mohajer and Shahed UAVs meet the parameters” stipulated under 2231 “because they are capable of a range of equal to or greater than 300 kilometers.”

By Reuters (Reporting By Michelle Nichols in New York and by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool and Alistair Bell)