US: Iranian troops in Crimea backing Russian drone strikes

Us: Iranian Troops In Crimea Backing Russian Drone Strikes Us: Iranian Troops In Crimea Backing Russian Drone Strikes
John Kirby, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller, AP

The White House has said Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s power stations and other key infrastructure.

The US administration claimed it has troubling evidence of Tehran’s deepening role assisting Russia as it exacts suffering on Ukrainian civilians just as the cold weather sets in.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Iran has sent a “relatively small number” of personnel to Crimea, a part of Ukraine unilaterally annexed by Russia in contravention of international law in 2014, to assist Russian troops in launching Iranian-made drones against Ukraine.

Members of a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were dispatched to assist Russian forces in using the drones, according to the British government.

Drones are prepared for launch during a military drill in Iran (Iranian Army via AP)


The revelation of the US intelligence finding comes as Joe Biden’s administration seeks to mount international pressure on Tehran to pull back from helping Russia as it bombards soft Ukrainian civilian targets with the help of Iranian-made drones.

The Russians in recent days have increasingly turned to the Iranian-supplied drones, as well as Kalibr and Iskander cruise missiles, to carry out a barrage of attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and non-military targets.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that Russian forces have destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power stations since Oct. 10.

Mr Kirby said: “The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it’s the Russians who are doing the piloting.”

The wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine (Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)

He added that the Biden administration was looking at imposing new sanctions on Tehran and would look for ways to make it harder for Iran to sell such weapons to Russia.

The US first revealed this summer that Russia was purchasing Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles to launch against Ukraine. Iran has denied selling its munitions to Russia.


White House officials say that international sanctions, including export controls, have left the Russians in a bind as they try to restock ammunition and precision-guided munition stocks that have been depleted during the nearly eight-month-old war.

As a result, Russia has been forced to turn to Iran as well as North Korea for weaponry.

US air force Brig Gen Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that military officials “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Russians sought more drones from Iran “given their situation”.

Mr Zelensky said last week that Russia had ordered 2,400 from Iran.

US officials believe that Iran may have deployed military personnel to assist the Russians in part because of the Russians’ lack of familiarity with the Iranian-made drones.

Declassified US intelligence findings showed that Russians faced technical problems with the drones soon after taking delivery of them in August.

Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier this week (AP)

Mr Kirby said: “The systems themselves were suffering failures and not performing to the standards that apparently the customers expected.

“So the Iranians decided to move in some trainers and some technical support to help the Russians use them with better lethality.”


The Biden administration released further details about Iran’s involvement in assisting Russia’s war at a sensitive moment.

The administration has levied new sanctions against Iran over the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in Iranian security custody.

The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked massive protests across Iran and further afield (AP)

Morality police had detained Amini last month for not properly covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed at a police station and died three days later.

Her death and the subsequent unrest have come as the administration tries to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal that was brokered by the Obama administration and scrapped by the Trump administration.

At the United Nations this week, Ukraine accused Iran of violating a Security Council ban on the transfer of drones capable of flying 180 miles.

The UK, France and the US strongly back Ukraine’s contention that the drones were transferred to Russia and violate a 2015 UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal between Iran and six nations – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear activities and preventing the country from developing a nuclear weapon.


Mr Kirby said the US administration has little hope for reviving the Iran nuclear deal soon.

“We’re not focused on the on the diplomacy at this point,” Mr Kirby said.

“What we are focused on is making sure that we’re holding the regime accountable for the way they’re treating peaceful protesters in their country and supporting those protesters.”

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