Russia’s denial of using Iranian-made “kamikaze drones” has blown up in its face after images were released of the aircraft that bombed Kyiv this week.
The bombings came exactly one week after Vladimir Putin’s declaration he would hit crucial Ukrainian infrastructure, including highly populated civilian areas, in retaliation to the attack on a Crimean supply bridge earlier this month.
Ukraine accused Moscow of sending the Shahed-129 drones neighbouring ally Belarus. However, Russian officials have denied using the unmanned superweapons against innocents.
“Russian equipment with Russian nomenclature is used,” Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, said this week.
“All further questions should be directed to the Defence Ministry.”
However, the defence ministry confirmed strikes on energy facilities, admitting it had used long-range and precision weapons.
Western officials from the EU and US believe Iran has delivered hundreds of drones and have now made moves to stop the middle eastern country from supplying Putin’s invasion.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel the White House will take “practical, aggressive” steps to make it harder for Iran to sell the deadly drones.
Despite there being photographic evidence, Iranian officials have blasted the so-called “baseless” claims of supplying weapons to Russia, insisting they are “based on false information”.
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Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani urged his nation was prepared for “negotiation and discussion with Ukraine to resolve these accusations”.
“Claims made regarding the Islamic republic sending weapons including military drones to be used in the Ukraine war are untrue”, the statement said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has suggested Kyiv cut all diplomatic ties with Iran until there is proof of a complete pullback on arms sales.
Kuleba has also urged the European Union “to impose sanctions on Iran for providing Russia with drones”.
“Given the amount of destruction Iranian drones have caused to Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, the deaths and injuries caused to our people, as well as… the possible continuation of Iran’s supply of weapons to Russia, I submitted a proposal to break off diplomatic ties with Iran to the Ukrainian President,” Kuleba said in a Facebook video.
As of Thursday two models of Iranian drones have been identified in Ukraine’s skies. The Shahed 136 and Mohajer-6 are built for two different purposes.
One of them, the Shahed -36, is a relatively low-cost “kamikaze drone” that can be programmed to fly automatically to a set of GPS coordinates with a payload of explosives.
One Shahed-136 was photographed plunging into Kyiv by an AFP journalist early on Monday morning.
“It flies quite low, striking a target that must be stationary at a range of a few hundred kilometres,” said Pierre Grasser, a researcher tied to Paris’ Sorbonne University.
The second type, the Mohajer-6, is “similar in size and functionality to the Bayraktar TB-2 drone from Turkey,” said Vikram Mittal, a professor at the US military academy in West Point.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia’s ongoing use of the Iranian-made drones is a clear sign of the Kremlin’s burgeoning “military and political bankruptcy”.
“The very fact of Russia’s appeal to Iran for such assistance is the Kremlin’s recognition of its military and political bankruptcy,” he said on Tuesday, as Ukrainian forced launched counterattacks in the nation’s east.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said five people were killed by the drone strikes on Monday, including an expectant mother, according to Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska.
The attack followed a far deadlier strike on multiple civilian locations the Monday prior, claiming 19 lives. A number of explosions were captured in harrowing video footage, one of which showing a young girl filming a video of herself before having the screen light up from a blast barely 50 metres away.
— with AFP