An elderly woman walks past an Kyiv apartment building destroyed by a Russian drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made Shahed-136. Photo: Oleksii Chumachenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Axios his country's military has shot down 260 Iranian-made drones used by Russia in the war in Ukraine.
The big picture: Russia and Iran have repeatedly denied Iranian-made drones are being used in the war, despite growing evidence to the contrary. In recent weeks Russia used Iranian-made Shahed-136 Kamikaze drones against Ukrainian military positions and cities and civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian officials say.
- U.S. and Ukrainian officials also say Iran is planning to deliver Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles to Russia. These missiles are equipped with precision guidance technology and can hit targets with high accuracy.
What he's saying: Kuleba told Axios in an interview earlier this week that Ukraine received the first indication of Iran’s intentions to provide the drones to Russia several months ago. “They were very vague and uncertain, but we immediately reached out to Iran," he said.
- Kuleba claimed the Iranians at the time gave Ukraine verbal and written assurances that this would not happen. But since then, Ukraine has shot down hundreds of the drones, he said.
- “They're not as good as one might think and the number of drones that we have shot down speaks for itself. But they still inflict a lot of damage and we need to bring the efficiency of shooting them down to 100%," Kuleba stressed. Russia had fired about 330 Iranian-made Shahed drones through Saturday, the AP reported.
State of play: Ukraine has expelled the Iranian ambassador from Kyiv and downgraded its diplomatic relations with Iran. The Ukrainian foreign ministry recently recommended to President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine cut ties with Iran but such a decision hasn’t been made yet.
- Kuleba said Iran still has time to backtrack and reverse its decision to help Russia in the war. “If we received real rock-solid evidence that Iran ceased cooperation with Russia and that Russia is not receiving their drones one way or another, we will be in a position to keep our relations afloat," he said.
- But Kuleba added that if Iran continues to supply Russia with drones or provides missiles to Moscow, Ukraine’s policy “will be absolutely ruthless in defending ourselves against countries who participate in Russia's aggression."
“Any country that will be helping Russia one way or another to continue military aggression against Ukraine will face consequences and we have no strings attached when it comes to going after such players, we will use all instruments open and discrete. Everything that is not against international law will be involved to stop such country."
What to watch:Kuleba told Axios the Iranian drones were used to target power stations, which will affect the ability of Ukrainian citizens to survive during winter.
- “By cooperating with Russia in this field, Iran has already become an accomplice in these crimes," he said.
- Zelensky slams Israel, suggests Russia will help Iran with its nuclear program
- Ukraine's FM criticizes Israeli politicians who boasted about friendships with Putin
- Ukrainian foreign minister on Russia's "dirty bomb" claim: "Drink less dirty vodka"
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