As Iran is swept with protests for its treatment of women, it has further condemned itself in the eyes of the West as it reportedly promises to support Vladimir Putin’s cruel war in Ukraine with further missiles and drones. Iranian-supplied drones have seen increased use in Ukraine in recent weeks, with 43 of the so-called “kamikaze drones” being launched across the country yesterday, according to US officials, with some of them exploding in the capital, Kyiv. Two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats revealed plans to supply the invading Russians with even more drones, as well as surface-to-surface missiles. The concerning move comes as Iran comes under an international spotlight for mass demonstrations following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly.
The additional drones are being provided under a deal signed on October 6 following talks in Moscow between Russia and Iran’s First Vice President Mohammed Mokhber, two senior officials from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards and an official from the Supreme National Security Council.
One of the diplomats, who was briefed about the trip, told Reuters: “The Russians had asked for more drones and those Iranian ballistic missiles with improved accuracy, particularly the Fateh and Zolfaghar missiles family”.
The agreement was confirmed by an unnamed Western official, the news agency reports, who had been briefed on the matter. The official said there was an agreement between Iran and Russia to provide surface-to-surface missiles, including the Zolfaghar – a short range ballistic missile.
While Western officials claimed that the deal breached UN Security Council resolution 2231 from 2015, this was rejected by the Iranian diplomat.
They said: “Where they are being used is not the seller’s issue. We do not take sides in the Ukraine crisis like the West.
“We want an end to the crisis through diplomatic means”.
The resolution, which is connected to Iran’s nuclear deal, bars the country from transferring particular military technologies. Iran has already been accused of breaching the resolution in the sale of its Shahed-136 weapons – nicknamed “kamikaze drones” – to Russia, with the US Department of State’s spokesperson Vedant Patel claiming these weapons fall under the purview of the agreement, adding that there was “extensive proof” of their use in Ukraine.
Iran has denied supplying the drones, and the Kremlin has denied using them to attack Ukraine. The Iranian security officials quoted by Reuters, however, suggest that their denials are inaccurate.
One of them said: “They (Russians) wanted to buy hundreds of our missiles, even mid-range ones, but we told them that we can ship soon a few hundred of their demanded Zolfaghar and Fateh 110 short-range, surface to surface missiles. I cannot give you the exact time, but soon, very soon those will be shipped in 2 to three shipments.”
Key Ukrainian targets already hit in a series of brutal Russian airstrikes and drone attacks include critical infrastructure in the Kyiv, Dnipro and Sumy regions – causing electricity to cut out entirely for hundreds of towns and villages.
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Four people in Kyiv and four in Sumy were confirmed to have been killed in the attacks, although the real number could be higher.
The US said it would “hold [Russia] accountable for its war crimes.”
Meanwhile EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU is also “gathering evidence” on the Iranian drones and is ready to act – a statement which may imply an intensification of sanctions. According to a European diplomat, his country had assessed that Russia was finding it difficult to produce weaponry for itself given sanctions on its industrial sector.
Therefore, imports from partners like Iran and North Korea have become more attractive for the dictatorship. Iran’s emerging role in the invasion of Ukraine comes as multiple EU states call for additional sanctions against it for its violent crackdown on protests.
Estimates vary over the number of civilians killed as Iranian police reportedly open fire on demonstrators, with U.S.-based rights monitor HRANA claiming at least 233 had been killed, including 32 under the age of 18, while Oslo-based Iran Human Rights estimated 201 people have been killed.
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With the sweeping protests representing arguably the most significant challenge to the government since the 1979 revolution, Iranian authorities have tried to dismiss them as the machinations of a Western plot.
Elham Zanjani of the NCRI Women’s Committee told Express.co.uk that the slain Mahsa Amini “represented the agony and the innocence of the Iranian women during four decades of the mullahs’ rule, and more than that, I think the desire of the Iranian women for liberty, the liberty of how to dress, how to study, how to live”.
She added the protestors were increasingly calling for a complete regime change. Following the unrest the UK has imposed sanctions on senior security and political figures in Iran and the so-called “Morality Police” – including its chief, Mohammed Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, and the Head of the Tehran Division Haj Ahmed Mirzaei.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “These sanctions send a clear message to the Iranian authorities – we will hold you to account for your repression of women and girls and for the shocking violence you have inflicted on your own people.”