U.S. accuses Iran of selling drones to Russia in violation of U.N. ban

In a contentious closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting late Wednesday, the U.S., U.K. and France accused Iran of selling drones to Russia in violation of a U.N. Security Council ban against the transfer of drones. Russia has used drones in a series of devastating attacks on Ukrainian cities this past week.

Both Russia and Iran claimed to reporters that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, were not sold by Iran to Russia, and not used in conflict.

Nate Evans, spokesperson and communications director for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., called for an “expert briefing” in the Security Council “on recent evidence that Russia illegally procured Iranian UAVs that it is using in its war on Ukraine.”

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Tuesday requesting U.N experts visit Ukraine to inspect the recovered UAVs which have been used to attack Ukrainian cities. The attacks have caused about 30% of Ukraine’s power to shut down.

In his letter, Kyslytsya noted that the drones used in the attacks meet the requirements under U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, passed in 2015, which bans the transfer of drones capable of traveling more than 300 kilometers.

“The United States began warning in July that Iran was planning to transfer UAVs to Russia for use in Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, and we now have abundant evidence that these UAVs are being used to strike Ukrainian civilians and critical civilian infrastructure,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement following the meeting.

Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said that the 15-nation Security Council had no authority to send inspectors, an issue that will be taken up on Friday in an open Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s U.N. ambassador, denied that Iran transferred drones to Russia for use in the war.

James Kariuki, U.K.’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., tweeted Wednesday that “Iran has obligations not to export these weapons.”

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On Wednesday, self-detonating drones launched by Russia struck power plants, and forced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to convene an emergency meeting to avoid what he called a “breakdown of [Ukraine’s] energy system.”

Beginning about a week ago, Russia launched a flurry of attacks using Iranian-made self-detonating drones packed with explosives.

Since the first kamikaze drone was launched last month, Ukraine claims it has shot down 223 of them. U.S. officials estimate Ukraine has a roughly 50% success rate, which would mean Russia has launched nearly 450 drones.

— David Martin contributed to this report. 

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