Iran is providing Russia with materials to build a drone manufacturing plant east of Moscow as the Kremlin looks to lock in a steady supply of weaponry for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to a US intelligence finding released by the White House on Friday and quoted by The Associated Press.
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 also 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.”
Last year, the US said it had intelligence indicating that Russia is looking to Iran for UAVs.
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 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.
President Joe Biden’s administration publicly stated in December that it believed Tehran and Moscow were considering standing up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine war. The new intelligence suggests that the project, in the Yelabuga region of Tatarstan, has moved beyond conception.
Iran initially rejected the claims that it provided drones to Russia but the country’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, eventually acknowledged this, though he claimed saying that the deliveries happened before the war started.
In response to Iran’s aid to Russia, Ukraine’s parliament recently approved a 50-year sanctions package against Iran.
The sanctions include a complete ban on trade operations, the transit of Iranian resources, flights, and transportation in the territory of Ukraine. In addition, any investment in Iran and the transfer of technologies and intellectual property rights by its residents will be prohibited.
The sanctions will also stop electronic means of payment with Iranians by Iranians, while the National Bank of Ukraine will be banned from registering any international payment system operated by Iran.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, saying Tehran's "support for evil cannot be denied" and appealed directly to Iranians, asking: "Why do you want to be accomplices in Russian terror?"
Responding to Zelenskyy’s comments, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said that the Ukrainian President "repetition of false claims" against the Islamic Republic was "in harmony with the propaganda and media war of the anti-Iranian axis."
"It is done with the aim of attracting as much military and financial aid from Western countries as possible," Kanani said. Ukraine, he added, had "specific political goals and motives behind such accusations" and was "avoiding expert negotiations with the Iranian side to investigate the claims."
(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.)