October 31, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10290

Cracks Appear In Russia's Stonewall Denial Of Using Iranian Drones In Ukraine

October 31, 2022
Iran, Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10290

Ukraine has accused Russia of using Iranian drones to strike its critical infrastructure. Ukraine's prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has said the Russians use "20 to 30 Iranian 'kamikaze' drones' against us every day." [1]

On a visit to Ottawa, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia's use of the drones "appalling" and pledged  that the United States and allies would seek to block such shipments.

Both Russia and Iran have opposed efforts by the US and European countries to clarify the source of the drones. Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has rejected a demand last week by the Untied States and European countries for a UN investigation into the use of "Iranian drones."

Nebenzia claimed that such an investigation would violate the UN charter and would seriously damage relations between Russia and the UN. Iran has made similar statements. [2]

At a press briefing Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova denied the allegations: "Both Iranian and Russian officials have recently refuted rumors circulating in so-called independent US media outlets with reference to "unnamed" sources about the Iranian UAVs. There is no need to comment on the claims Teheran faces since what we are dealing with here is just a series of groundless inferences and far-fetched allegations. The UK and France have been seeking to build these perorations into a single structure but every time they do it, the whole construct comes apart.[3]

The blanket denial of Russian officialdom has not prevented Russian experts from admitting that Russia is using Iranian drones because of their high cost effectiveness and Russia's inability to provide a home-produced drone of similar effectiveness and in the necessary quantities. Sometimes they add the argument that if it is permissible for Ukraine to obtain military hardware from foreign countries, then Russia is entitled to do the same.

The following report cites comments in the Russian press that are at variance with the official version.

Iranian drones (Source:

Perhaps the most notorious case of admission involved Ruslan Pukhov Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, who on a tv program beseeched the presenters not to "rock the boat" and avoid focusing on drones from Iran, "we all know that they are Iranian but the authorities don't recognize it." The expert, was unaware that he was speaking into a live mike.

Pukhov excused his faux pas to Podyom as the after effect of Covid:

"I don't remember saying that, probably, this is some kind of production. Perhaps it was, or perhaps it wasn't. I don't remember, unfortunately. It was a long time ago. After covid, it's bad with the brain.”[4]

Alexander Kots the senior military correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, whose opinions are cited by other publications explained the supply of Iranian weapons to Russia by Russia's need to have a variety of good missiles.

"Given the scale of arms supplies to Ukraine from the West, I think that [we need] more missiles, good and different. Especially those that have already successfully penetrated American air defense, whether it be targets in Saudi Arabia or US bases in Iraq." Kots explained.[5]

Aleksander Kots (Source:

Boris Rozhin, an expert at the Center for Military-Political Journalism, said on his Telegram channel that Russia has ordered new Arash-2 drones from Iran.

"Iran actually has many different interesting UAVs - reconnaissance, strike, kamikaze. Many of them have been tested in combat operations at different theaters," Rozhin said.

According to Rozhin, China and Iran are always ready to lend a hand in various issues, but Russia needed to strive for an independent production capability.[6]

In an interview with the pro-Putin Eurasian Daily Rozhin amplified these remarks:" Here, basically, our interest should be not only in the purchase per se, but also in commissioning of production assembly lines (both domestic and foreign ones (the latter - under license) on Russian territory. After all, buying the necessary things from a friendly country is certainly a good thing, but in the long-term perspective, it’s necessary to strive for military self-sufficiency."[7] Rozhin all but acknowledged that Russia could not produce the Geran-2 drones (which the West claims are rebadged Iranian Shahed drones) that are wreaking destruction in Ukraine.

Boris Rozhin (Source:

An article that appeared in that covers developments in electronics and computing also emphasized Russia's dependence on Iran for sourcing drones.

"...They have been talking about Iranian drones for more than a month, but they have only just begun to be used. What did Russia get in the end and what will the new weapons change?

"When our president went on a visit to Iran, evil tongues began to speak maliciously - they say, he is going shopping, buying Iranian drones. Then it seemed strange: Iran, although not the poorest and most backward country, is under a bunch of sanctions, with the wildest social gap between rich and poor (much more serious than in the Russian Federation, no matter what anyone says), and infinitely distant from high technologies - well, what kind of UAVs are there?

"But it turned out to be no laughing matter - Iran has not only the notorious copy of the American "Predator", but a very serious line of drones for various purposes: reconnaissance, reconnaissance-strike, loitering (kamikaze drones), etc. At the same time, the volumes are amazing - many models of rather heavy vehicles exceed hundreds, while they have already been successfully tested in battles in Syria and actions against Israel."

The article then chided Russia for neglecting the field of UAV development

"Only one thing is obvious - the Russian military-industrial complex cannot yet offer more successful replacements for drones of this class. Why was Iran, a country impoverished under sanctions, able not only to assess the importance of UAVs in time, but also to develop and mass-produce under sanctions that the Russian Federation did not have until recently? Yes, from 'shit and sticks', but their army is tightly covered by UAVs, including strike-type and loitering, as befits a modern army.

"Russia, with its radically more powerful scientific and technical potential, to be honest, is still lagging behind in this direction: for now, the army has to be content with copies of light Israeli reconnaissance drones and Orlan-10 multifunctional reconnaissance aircraft, which, however, are in short supply. Let's hope that the conclusions have already been drawn and it will be better in the future."[8]

Military expert, Colonel Sergei Khatylev, ex-commander of the anti-Aircraft Missile Forces of the Special Purpose Command (Moscow Air Defense District), lauded the performance of the Iranian drones and claimed that they would provide Russia with a response to the American HIMARS system that has allowed Ukraine to turn the tide:

"It's known that compared to the Turkish Bayraktars, the Iranian Shahed drones are equipped with a more powerful engine. Their guidance system is better too. The Bayraktar is guided via laser illumination, while the "Shahed" uses tele-guidance, which is much more effective. What’s more, the Iranian UAVs can be equipped with high-explosive bombs and missiles, which are used to destroy armored vehicles. In other words, they can strike tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles.

The Americans are rather afraid that their lauded HIMARS will become targets for Iranian UAVs. Until now, as long as our drones have been used, we had no such opportunities, as our combat UAVs have a shorter range and are equipped with low-power weapons. With the emergence of the Iranian Shahed, the option of such tactics materializes."[9]

Sergey Khatylenv (Source:

The local Rostov edition of reported on the agreement between Russia and Iran to supply the Shahed drones and that they had already been employed in the fighting in Ukraine:

"Reliable sources report the signing of an agreement between Iran and the official Kremlin on the supply of modern technology...

"Rumors have been circulating for a long time that the Russian government is going to sign an agreement with Iran on the supply of Shahed 129 combat attack drones to the combat zone in Ukraine...

"According to a military analyst who refers to his sources in the Iranian military department, Russia managed to agree on the supply of 1,000 Iranian drones. Official Tehran has already handed over a special simulator for training UAV operators of this type.

"It also became known that the Russian army has already used Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles in the zone of the special military operation as strike drones, as well as in the role of fire spotters."[10]

On July 19, 2022, the day that Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Tehran, military expert Yuri Lyamin a specialist on Iran commented on Russia's interest in Iranian drones and observed that if a deal was signed it would be kept under wraps as was the experience with previous deals between Russia and Iran: "Currently, the topic of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is being actively discussed in the media. Iran has been very successful in this area. Russia could take advantage of these developments by purchasing Iranian UAVs. And such information. But later both sides refused to confirm it. How are matters really proceeding?

"Iran has indeed achieved very good results in the creation of drones. However, now it is rather difficult to say what is really happening between Russia and Iran in the field of unmanned aircraft. The fact is that military-technical cooperation between our countries is often very closed. Some contracts may not be disclosed at all. It so happens that something becomes known only after years, when it is no longer possible to hide it.

"For example, more than a decade ago, Russia supplied Iran with several radar stations, which became known not so long ago. Previously, both countries were silent, as this was primarily due to sanctions against Iran.

"Now, given that sanctions have also been announced against us, I think that it is even further the case that no one will disseminate news of any deals in the military-technical field.. Even if some specific deals are made, the parties will probably keep them as secret as possible.

"Of course, the most interesting topic for us is Iranian drones. In recent years, this direction has been a priority for Iran. He created a very wide range of unmanned vehicles: reconnaissance, strike and so-called kamikaze drones. And they have such unique models that no one else has. For example, long-range kamikaze drones are somewhat analogous to cruise missiles, but [they are] much cheaper and with minimal visibility.

"This was demonstrated when the Yemeni Houthis attacked oil installations in Saudi Arabia last year, using explosive drones in addition to missiles. Air defense systems purchased by the Saudis in the United States, they were simply not noticed and missed.

"Were these drones of Iranian production?

"Iran, of course, denies any accusations of helping and supplying weapons to the Houthis, but judging by the information coming from the field about the technical data of the drones, these were Iranian drones. At least they are very similar."[11]

Prior to Putin's visit to Iran, Ilya Kramnik, a military expert, and a researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences justified Russia's interest in the Iranian drones.

"These UAVs will be useful in any case for Russia, because Iran has production capacity...Even if Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles turn out not to be the best performance-wise, they will come in handy for Russia, since drones are consumables... these UAVs have already been used in combat conditions. Even considering that we have our own production, we need more drones... and the more we have, the better."

Ilya Kramnik (Source:

While the Pukhov live-mike episode may be regarded as a slip, the other sources cited tend to discredit Russian claims that it had no need for Iranian drones since Russia was self-sufficient. If the Iranian drones were top secret, Russia is doing a poor job at sealing the leaks. The Russian press has also frequently cited foreign newspapers about the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine. The portal even has a special section on Iranian drones. These items are published without a vehement denial by the authorities. Similarly, there has been no full court press by the Russian media to discredit the charges along the lines that followed the failed assassination of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, or charges that Russia committed war crimes in Bucha and other locations in Ukraine.

This disparity can possibly be explained by two major reasons. While Iran and Russia officially deny the sale of Iranian drones to Russia, the Russian authorities are interested that the public should think the contrary. The sale drives home the point that Russia is not isolated and can source weaponry from other countries. Due to the criticism of the campaign in Ukraine including the call to hit Ukraine harder, Russia is assuring its citizens that it now has a weapon that can inflict real pain on Kyiv.

A second reason is that while assassinations of political opponents and war crimes are universally regarded as heinous, procurement of weapons from Iran is a different kettle of fish.

Professor Nikolai Topornin Director of the Center for European Information, made this point prior to Putin's Iran visit. Associate Professor at MGIMO

"Most likely some advanced technologies exist that the Russian army probably lacks, and they are trying [to get them] from allies or from those countries who can share such weapons. There is an ongoing conversation, because it is clear that, for example, the Ukrainian army is now almost constantly receiving new types of weapons from all countries, from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany. That is, in fact, they are already fighting, probably, to a greater extent with Western weapons, and not with the ones that they had. Logic suggests, why shouldn't Russia also see which countries have some kind of weapons that could help the Russian army to fulfill its tasks. I don’t see any contradictions here, but the fact that of the matter is that in Iran there are supposedly a large number of these drones that would be of interest to the Russian side."[12]

As the controversy heated up, the staunchly conservative columnist Petr Akopov made the same point:

In the hostilities in Ukraine, the West participates in all possible ways, except for manpower (formally, foreign mercenaries are not military personnel of the corresponding armies): large-scale supplies of weapons, ammunition, training of the Ukrainian army, financing. And against this background, Russia and Iran are threatened with sanctions for UAVs?

Of course, the West cannot stop Russian-Iranian military cooperation - and they understand this. But they are trying to use arguments from a bygone era - the time when Russia took the interests of the West into account when constructing its relations with the rest of the world, including Iran (as was the case, for example, with the supply of S-300 systems to Tehran - the contract was concluded in 2007, but then frozen by us and performed only in 2016).[13]


[1] October 26, 2022.

[2], October 27, 2022.

[3], October 20, 2022.

[4], October 20, 2022.

[5], October 16, 2022.

[6], October 15. 2022.

[7] Eadaily,com, October 26, 2022.

[8], September 28, 2022.

[9] Eadaily,com, October26, 2022.

[10] August 15

[11], July 19, 2022.

[12], July 12, 2022.

[13], October 20, 2022.


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