Iran sparked fury in Kyiv as the country admitted for the first time on Saturday that it had sent drones to Russia – but insisted they were supplied to its ally before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In response, Kyiv has warned Iran that the ‘consequences’ of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine are greater than the ‘benefits’.
This comes as Kyiv and its Western allies have accused Russia of using Iranian-made ‘kamikaze’ drones in recent weeks to carry out attacks in Ukraine and hit key infrastructure sites.
Previously, Tehran denied the accusations, but on Saturday Iran’s foreign minister said a small number of the vehicles had been sent to Moscow.
Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying that drones had been sent to Russia before the invasion began in late February.
‘We supplied Russia with a limited number of drones months before the war in Ukraine,’ the official news agency IRNA quoted Amir-Abdollahian as saying.
For weeks, Russian forces have rained missiles and explosive drones onto Ukraine infrastructure, as a major Ukrainian ground offensive – propelled by Western arms deliveries – has pushed Russian troops back in swathes of the country.
Russian strikes over the past month have destroyed around a third of Ukraine’s power stations and the government has urged Ukrainians to conserve electricity as much as possible.
Ukraine’s state energy company on Saturday announced additional power rationing in Kyiv and several other regions of the country.
‘In a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian foreign minister last week, we agreed that if there was evidence (of Moscow’s use of Iranian drones), he would provide it to us,’ Amir-Abdollahian said.
‘If the Ukrainian side keeps its promise, we can discuss this issue in the coming days and we will take into account their evidence,’ he added.
And he again denied Iran had supplied missiles to Russia, calling the accusations ‘completely false’.
In response Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman hit back and warned Iran on Saturday in a post on Facebook that ‘the consequences of complicity’ with Moscow would be ‘greater than the benefit from Russia’s support.’
‘Tehran should realise that the consequences of complicity in the crimes of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine will be much greater than the benefit of Russia’s support,’ foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said.
Kyiv claims around 400 Iranian drones have already been used against the civilian population of Ukraine and that Moscow has ordered around 2,000.
Britain and the European Union have imposed sanctions on three Iranian generals and an arms firm accused of supplying Russia with drones.
Ukrainian and Russian forces appear to be gearing up for a fierce battle in Kherson, a southern city with a population of around 288,000 people before the conflict.
It was the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces after the Moscow invasion.
Russia has been pulling civilians out of the Kherson region, with President Vladimir Putin saying residents must be ‘removed’ from danger zones.
But Kyiv has likened the departures to Soviet-style ‘deportations’ of its people.
The Ukrainian presidency has accused the Russians of ‘trying to identify residents who refuse to be evacuated’ to Moscow-occupied areas further away from the front line.
A judge in a Ukrainian town controlled by Moscow was in a ‘serious’ condition after surviving an assassination attempt, a separatist leader in Donetsk said Saturday.
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