WASHINGTON – Iran has sent trainers to occupied Ukraine to help the Russians fix problems with its fleet of drones it bought from Tehran, according to current and former US officials. classified intelligence announcements, another signal of the growing closeness between Iran and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Iranian trainers are operating from a Russian military base in Crimea, where many of the drones have been stationed since being transferred from Iran. The trainers come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
In recent days, Iranian drones have become an important weapon for Russia, which has used them as part of widespread attacks across Ukraine on electrical infrastructure. and other civilian purposes. The deployment of Iranian trainers appears to coincide with the increased use of drones in Ukraine and shows Iran’s deeper involvement in the war.
Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official and retired CIA officer, said: “Sending drones and trainers to Ukraine has plunged Iran into a war with Russia. and directly involved Tehran in operations that killed and wounded civilians.
“Even if they’re just tactical trainers and advisers in Ukraine, I think that’s very important,” Mulroy said. The United Nations human rights body has said that deliberate attacks on such civilian targets could constitute war crimes.
When Iran deployed its first batch of drones to Russia, the flaws of Russian operators made them ineffective. According to US officials, mechanical problems also affected the aircraft’s performance and limited their usability.
Initially, Russia sent its staff to Iran for drone training. But as problems continued, Iran chose to send its trainers to Crimea, according to current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters.
The Iranian personnel were far from the front lines and were deployed to train the Russians how to fly the drones, officials said. It is not clear if the trainers flew any of the planes themselves. It is not clear how many coaches Iran has sent.
The United States says Russia’s reliance on Iranian drones is a sign of the effectiveness of Western sanctions in cutting off Moscow from international markets, making it difficult for Russia to produce goods. arms production in the country and restricting avenues to purchase weapons on the open market.
Following the sale of the drone to Moscow, the United States imposed additional sanctions on Iranians and Iranian companies involved in the construction and design of the aircraft, as well as on companies involved in their transportation to Russia.
Several US-designated Iranian cargo planes operating US-origin Boeing 747s have been publicly monitored and filmed as they fly in and out of Moscow in recent weeks. None of the footage and satellite images analyzed by The New York Times reveal what the plane was unloading over Russia. A message sent to Iran’s mission to the United Nations was not immediately returned.
The deployment of Iranian coaches was previously reported by The Daily Mirror.
Iran has deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel to other conflict zones. In Yemen, for example, the group’s officers are hardly directly on the sidelines and are instead training and mentoring their Houthi proxies, Mulroy said.
While Iran officially denies providing drones to Russia for use in Ukraine, US officials say the first batch of the weapons were delivered in August.
These include Shaheds, which are single-use drones meant to explode and destroy targets, but with a range of more than 1,000 miles. Iran has also sent larger Mohajer-6 drones, which are used for surveillance and can carry up to four missiles.
This week’s attacks by Iranian drones in Kyiv have left many people dead. On Monday, an Iranian-made kamikaze drone struck a residential building and exploded on impact, killing a young couple, including a woman six months pregnant.
Drones have also been used to strike parts of the power grid around the country. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin seems intent on bringing down Ukraine’s power infrastructure to keep the population in the dark as the weather turns colder.
“He came up with a terrorist strategy to make life miserable for Ukrainians,” Mulroy said.
US military analysts say the use of drones as a terrorist weapon has no military significance.
Drones will be used more effectively on the front lines of military battlefields in Kherson or Donbas. According to military analysts, their use for civilian purposes shows that Putin is eager to break the will of the Ukrainians to fight.
“The Russians are wasting their very advanced weapons, their cruise missiles and Iranian-supplied drones, in sporadic attacks on civilian and infrastructure targets. doesn’t really do much lasting damage and has no effect either. Mason Clark, a Russian military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said Ukraine must surrender.
Christiaan Triebert Contribution reports from New York.