The US on Friday hit six executives and board members of an Iranian drone manufacturer with sanctions after the firm allegedly supplied Moscow with drones that Russian forces have been using to attack Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
Qods Aviation Industries, a previously sanctioned Iranian defense manufacturer, is alleged to be responsible for the design and production of unmanned aerial vehicles used to conduct strikes on civilians during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The Treasury Department said the firm changed its name to Light Airplanes Design and Manufacturing Industries in mid-2020 to evade sanctions.
“Iran has now become Russia’s top military backer,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement quoted by AP. “Iran must cease its support for Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and delay these transfers and impose costs on actors engaged in this activity."
The latest sanctions follow a round imposed on Iranian-based Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, which the US says designs and produces drones used by Russian forces in Ukraine, and several firms that are said to facilitate the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
In July, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US had intelligence indicating that Russia is looking to Iran for UAVs.
A month later, it was reported that Iran had begun training Russians to use its drones, though it was also noted that Russia is experiencing “numerous failures” and technical glitches with the drones it purchased from Iran.
In September, Ukraine reported the first Russian attacks carried out using Iranian-made drones, targeting the south of the country, including the strategic city of Odessa on the Black Sea.
At the start of October, Iranian-made drones were also reportedly used in an attack in the Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva, southwest of the capital Kyiv.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it received drones from Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, recently acknowledged for the first time that his country gave drones to Russia, saying that the deliveries happened before the war started.
Despite this acknowledgement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry in late December blasted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had criticized Iran for providing Russia with drones, saying his accusations were “baseless”.
“Zelenskyy had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless," the Ministry said.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)