Russia on Wednesday warned the United Nations not to probe alleged strikes by Iranian-made drones in Ukraine, joining Tehran in denying the weapons' origin as the European Union prepared new sanctions, AFP reported.
The United States, France and Britain called a closed-door Security Council meeting on the alleged sale of drones to Russia, which they described as a violation of UN arms restrictions on Iran.
The European Union and United States both said they had evidence that Iran supplied the Shahed-136s, low-cost drones that explode on landing and are blamed for five deaths Monday in the capital Kyiv as well as for the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy denounced the "baseless accusations and conspiracy theories," citing as evidence that the Russian word for geraniums was written on the drones, formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles.
"The UAVs used by the Russian army in Ukraine are manufactured in Russia," Polyanskiy told reporters outside the Security Council, according to AFP.
"I would recommend that you do not underestimate the technological capabilities of the Russian drone industry," the envoy said.
He warned against any UN probe on the ground in Ukraine as part of enforcement of the existing sanctions on Iran.
"The team doesn't have this mandate to conduct investigations; it is not part of the sanctions committee. So this would be absolutely unprofessional and political," he said.
If the UN Secretariat or Secretary-General Antonio Guterres still go ahead, "we will have to reassess our collaboration with them, which is hardly in anyone's interest," Polyanskiy said.
Iran's UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, also rejected the "unfounded and unsubstantiated claims" on the drone transfers and said that Tehran, which has abstained in votes on the Ukraine war, wanted a "peaceful resolution" of the war.
In July, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US had intelligence indicating that Russia is looking to Iran for UAVs.
He indicated at the time that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several UAVs for use in Ukraine, and train Russian forces to use these 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.
Last month, 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.
On Tuesday, current and former US officials told The New York Times that Iran has sent trainers to Ukraine to help Russians overcome problems with the fleet of drones that they purchased from Tehran.