Iran’s state airline is being used to smuggle advanced long-range armed drones to Russia for use in Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.
The Guardian reported on Monday that some of the drones – at least 18 in total – were transferred to the Russian navy at sea by an Iranian vessel, which departed a base on the Caspian Sea.
The deal was agreed by the two allies following a visit to Tehran by a 10-man Russian delegation in November. The Russian officers and technicians were shown the latest Iranian technology and picked six Mohajer-6 drones, which have a range of around 200km and carry two missiles under each wing, and 12 Shahed 191 and 129 drones, which also have an air-to-ground strike capability.
Tehran has also sent 54 drone technicians to Moscow to help the Russian military, sources in Iran told the Guardian.
The advanced drones selected by the Russians are able to fly at higher altitudes, launch bombs and then return to their bases. The Iranians have previously supplied Russia with Shahed-136 drones, which, though tactically useless, are used by Putin’s forces to terrorise the civilian population. In October, an Iranian drone which penetrated Ukraine’s air defences attacked Kyiv, killing five people.
Iran is believed to have been selling drones to Russia since last June, with Mohajer-6 drones first being shot down in Ukraine in September.