Russia and Iran defy as West imposes Ukraine drone sanctions

This photo provided by the Iranian army office on August 24, 2022 shows suicide drones (kamikazes) during a two-day drone exercise at an undisclosed location in Iran.— AFP

UNITED NATIONS: Russia on Wednesday warned United Nations not to investigate alleged strikes by Iranian-made drones in Ukraine, joining Tehran in denying the origin of the weapons as the European Union prepared new sanctions.

The United States, France and Britain convened a closed Security Council meeting on the alleged sale of drones to Russia, which they described as a violation of arms restrictions imposed by the UN to Iran.

The European Union and United States both said they had evidence that Iran provided the Shahed-136, low-cost drones that explode on landing and are responsible for five deaths in the capital Kyiv on Monday as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Ukraine, which has decided to sever diplomatic ties with Tehran, says its military has shot down more than 220 Iranian drones in just over a month and footage has surfaced that appears to show an Iranian connection.

But 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, officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The drones used by the Russian military in Ukraine are made in Russia,” Polyanskiy told reporters outside the Security Council.

“I recommend you not to underestimate the technological capabilities of the Russian drone industry.”

But he warned against any UN investigation on the ground in Ukraine as part of the application of existing sanctions against Iran.

“The team does not have this mandate to carry out investigations; they are not part of the sanctions committee. So it would be absolutely unprofessional and political,” he said.

If the UN secretariat or Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues, “we will have to reassess our collaboration with them, which is in no one’s interest,” Polyanskiy said.

Iran’s UN envoy Amir Saeid Iravani also dismissed “unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations” of drone transfers and said Tehran, which abstained in votes on the war in Ukraine, wanted a “peaceful solution” to the war.

The alleged arms transfers come as Iran faces mounting pressure over its crackdown on the biggest protests in years, which were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old detained by the notorious ” morality police” of the clerical state.

“Quick and firm” response

The European Union is expected to approve drone sanctions before a summit on Thursday in Brussels.

A list seen by AFP showed that the 27-nation bloc was planning sanctions against three senior military officials, including General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, as well as drone manufacturer Shahed Aviation Industries, an aerospace company linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guards.

Nabila Massrali, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said the bloc had “gathered our own evidence” and would prepare “a clear, swift and firm response from the EU”.

The United States has accused the drones of violating 2015 UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which blessed a now moribund nuclear deal.

The resolution’s ban on Iran’s conventional arms sales expired in 2020, despite attempts by the then Donald Trump US administration.

The United States has not specified the alleged violation, but Resolution 2231 still prohibits until October 2023 any transfer that could benefit nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States had “abundant evidence” of Iranian drone shipments to Russia, even “as Iran continues to lie” about transfers. Price said the United States and its allies “will not hesitate to use our sanctions” against any nation involved in the transfers.

Iran’s crackdown on protesters has already led to new Western human rights sanctions and shelved US President Joe Biden’s efforts to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from. United States.

Western officials have pointed to Iranian drones as evidence that Russia, historically one of the world’s largest arms exporters, has seen its arsenal severely depleted by battlefield casualties.

The United States has released intelligence indicating that Iranian drones have frequently malfunctioned and that Russia has also turned to North Korea, although China has reportedly rebuffed calls to send weapons.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur, visiting Washington, said Russia relies on drones both because of low supply and Ukraine’s success in the sky.

The Russians “understand that in the air they do not have supremacy at the moment because there is air defense on the Ukrainian side. They have already lost many planes,” Pevkur told reporters.

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