09 June 2023

Iran helping Russia build drone factory east of Moscow for war in Ukraine – US

09 June 2023

Iran is providing Russia with materials to build a drone manufacturing plant as the Kremlin looks to secure a steady supply of weaponry for its invasion of Ukraine, according to a US intelligence finding released by the White House.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said US intelligence officials believe a plant in Russia’s Alabuga special economic zone could be operational early next year.

The White House released satellite imagery taken in April of the industrial location, several hundred miles east of Moscow, where it believes the plant “will probably be built”.

President Joe Biden’s administration said publicly in December that it believed Tehran and Moscow were considering creating a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine war. The new intelligence suggests the project, in the Yelabuga region of Tatarstan, has moved beyond conception.

This is a full-scale defence partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbours, and to the international community

Iran has said it provided drones to Russia before the start of the war but not since.

Mr Kirby said that US officials have also determined that Iran continues to supply the Russian military with one-way attack drones made in Iran. The drones are shipped through the Caspian Sea, from Amirabad in Iran to Makhachkala, Russia, and are used by Russian forces against Ukraine.

As of May, Russia had received hundreds of one-way attack drones, as well as drone production-related equipment, from Iran, according to the White House.

“This is a full-scale defence partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbours, and to the international community,” Mr Kirby said.

“We are continuing to use all the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities including by sharing this with the public — and we are prepared to do more.”

He said the Democratic administration is to announce a new advisory meant to help businesses and other governments put in place measures to ensure they are not inadvertently contributing to Iran’s drone programme.

The US, the EU and the UK have recent months issued rules designed to cut off the flow of drone components to Russia and Iran.

The Biden administration has repeatedly publicised intelligence findings that detail how Iran is assisting the Russian invasion.

The persistent drip of intelligence findings is intended to detail what US officials say is a deepening defence partnership between Russia and Iran, and is part of a broader administration effort to spotlight Moscow’s prosecution of its war in Ukraine in hopes of further promoting global isolation of Russia.

The White House last month said Russia was looking to buy additional advanced attack drones from Iran after using most of the 400 it had previously purchased from Tehran.

The Biden administration last year first publicised satellite imagery and intelligence findings that it said indicated Tehran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia. For months, officials have said the US believed Iran was considering selling hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but White House officials have said they do not have evidence a deal was sealed.

The White House has noted that Iran also has weapons flowing its way from Russia.

Tehran is seeking to buy additional military equipment from Moscow, including attack helicopters, radars and Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft, according to the White House. In April, Iran announced that it had finalised a deal to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.

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