Iranian military personnel are “on the ground” in Ukraine, assisting the Russian military with drone operations that have been terrorizing the country and targeting power facilities, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“Our understanding is that they [Iranian forces] are on the ground in Crimea, assisting Russian military personnel as they conduct these drone operations in Ukraine,” Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters.
When asked about Russia’s denial that it uses Iran-made drones, Ryder responded, “It’s obvious that they’re lying.”
He added that Russia has turned to countries such as Iran and North Korea for additional ammunition and weapons because its weapons stockpiles, including precision-guided munitions, “are depleting.”
He called out Iran for “exporting terror, not only in the Middle East region but now also to Ukraine.”
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana condemned Iran’s behavior and called on Tehran to cease its involvement in Russia’s invasion.
“No country should support in any way this kind of barbaric war,” Geoana said during a virtual event held by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Also Thursday, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby blamed Iranian-made drones launched from Crimea for recent attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
“Russia has received dozens of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] so far and will likely continue to receive additional shipments in the future,” Kirby said.
Ukraine restricted power use on Thursday in response to Russian attacks that have damaged parts of the country’s electrical infrastructure.
In an address late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged people to conserve energy.
He said the government was working to create “mobile power supply points for critical infrastructure in cities and villages.”
Ukraine’s power grid operator said that supply restrictions would be in place from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., and as colder months approach, it may need to take such steps again.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council met privately at the request of the United States, Britain and France to discuss Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones in its war in Ukraine.
Washington, London and Paris say Tehran’s supplying of these UAVs to Russia is a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which allows for transfers of restricted items to or from Iran only when approved on a case-by-case basis by the Security Council. No such approval has been sought.
“We had a very clear indication that the drones have been delivered from Iran to Russia and they have been used in Ukraine,” France’s Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere told reporters as he left the meeting. “This is a violation of Resolution 2231.”
“We anticipate this will be the first of many conversations at the U.N. on how to hold Iran and Russia accountable for failing to comply with U.N. Security Council-imposed obligations,” said Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
“As was outlined during today’s meeting, there is ample evidence that Russia is using Iranian-made UAVs in cruel and deliberate attacks against the people of Ukraine, including against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure,” he said, adding that the procurement of arms was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Ukrainian officials have said the UAVs used in waves of attacks during the past week include Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones that carry explosives and crash into their targets.
Iran’s U.N. ambassador told reporters that his government categorically rejected the “unfounded and unsubstantiated claims,” which he said were part of a disinformation campaign against his government.
“It is disappointing [that] to pursue their political agenda, these states are trying to launch a disinformation campaign against Iran and make misleading interpretation of the Security Council Resolution 2231 in order to wrongly establish a link between their baseless allegation against Iran with this resolution,” Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said.
Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy told reporters that the allegations were “baseless.” He said that there had been no arms transfers in violation of the resolution and that no Iranian drones had been supplied to Russia for use in Ukraine.
“I would recommend that you do not underestimate the technological capabilities of the Russian drone industry,” Dmitry Polyanskiy said. “I can tell you we know what we do, and we know how to do it.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said that in the past week alone, more than 100 Iranian-made drones have slammed into power plants, sewage treatment plants, residential buildings, bridges and other targets in urban areas.
Margaret Besheer, Patsy Widakuswara and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.