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January 3, 2023 11:16 am

Ukraine Warns of Further Iranian Drone Deliveries to Russia Following New Year’s Bombardment

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Rescue workers in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv comb through the debris in the aftermath of a Russian strike using Iranian-made drones. Photo: Reuters/Latin America News Agency

Ukraine is readying for a new round of Russian attacks using Iranian-manufactured drones, its Air Force spokesperson said on Tuesday, warning that the Tehran regime can deliver new drones to its Russian ally through the Caspian Sea that separates the two countries.

“The question is whether Iran is ready to provide them, whether it has enough, or whether they will do it under the guise of production at a temporary Russian factory on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Yuriy Ignat said on national television. “Everything depends on supplies. Therefore, we will prepare, drones go astray.”

Ignat disclosed that Ukrainian defense forces had shot down 84 of the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 drones launched by the Russian invaders during intensified attacks over the New Year holiday. He said that nearly 500 Iranian-made drones had been destroyed since September.

At least 40 of the drones launched on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were aimed at the capital Kyiv, Ignat said. Photographs of the wreckage showed messages written in Russian declaring “Happy New Year,” accompanied by a drawing of a gift and firework.

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Ignat added that the Russians were deliberately using the relatively cheap Iranian drones to wear down Ukraine’s air defenses.

Separately, defense analysts in Ukraine have continued to speculate on whether Iran would be willing to match its supply of drones to Russia with more deadly ballistic missiles.

Last week, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, told a local news outlet that the Iranian regime was reticent about sending Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles to the Russians because of the likely furious international response.

“Iran is in no hurry to do this for obvious reasons, because as soon as Russia launches the first missiles, the sanctions pressure on Iran will increase,” Budanov stated.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, a former commander of an elite Ukrainian regiment of combat troops echoed Budanov’s assessment.

“Why do [the Iranians] delay these decisions and procrastinate? Because they were warned that there would be appropriate sanctions, warned by both Europe and the United States of America — it is very disadvantageous for them,” Ivan Yakubets told local broadcaster Radio NV.

Yakubets argued that any delivery of Iranian missiles to Russia would provoke an Israeli response.

“I think that if it starts, Israel will not be silent in the face of these Iranian actions,” he said. “I would really like to believe that Israel will support Ukraine.”

Ukraine has been urging Israel to match its humanitarian aid operation in Ukraine with military assistance, particularly since the first evidence of Iranian drones being deployed emerged during the summer. On Monday, Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, said that the government planned to continue the aid operation but would speak less in public about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Iran has again denied that it is assisting the Russians militarily. “Iran is not a party to the conflict in Ukraine, and unfounded accusations against Iran will not help solve the problem,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, in comments reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency.

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