Despite Kremlin denials, the EU has imposed new sanctions Thursday on Iran for supplying 'kamikaze' drones to Russia's military for use on the Ukrainian battlefield.
Three Iranian generals and arms manufacturers have been targeted in the fresh action, which also has the support of the United States. "After three days of talks, EU ambassadors agreed on measures against entities supplying Iranian drones that hit Ukraine," the EU's Czech presidency announced. "The EU is also prepared to extend sanctions to four more Iranian entities that already featured in a previous sanctions list."
The AFP identifies that "The chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, Major General Mohammed Hossein Bagheri, logistics officer General Sayed Hojatollah Qureishi and Revolutionary Guards drone commander Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani, were sanctioned."
The EU measures came out of a summit of 27 EU foreign ministers overseen by European Council chief Charles Michel. A statement said further that the bloc took "swift action against Iran who supports Russia's war in Ukraine."
The Ukrainian government at the start of this week tallied that Russia had sent hundreds of Iranian drones to attack its cities, claiming air defenses had shot down over 220 Iranian UAVs over the course of the prior week, since the stepped up Russian aerial bombardment that began Oct.10.
In particular the EU is seeking to punish the manufacturer of the Islamic Republic's Shahed-136 drones, which are believed to be the type currently pummeling Ukrainian cities as well as energy infrastructure, causing dozens of casualties as well as blackouts.
Meanwhile the US is pressing the United Nations Security Council to take immediate action, given the drone transfers stand "in open violation" of a UNSC resolution. Critics of Russia's denials say there is "abundant evidence" - as the State Department's Ned Price said in a briefing.
John Kirby, spokesman for the NSC: There is a relatively small number of Iranians in Crimea to assist Russia in operating the drones - the Iranians there train and provide support, but it's the Russians who are flying and operating the drones— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) October 20, 2022
"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," Price said in a statement. France and the UK also backed the US findings which were presented in a closed door UNSC meeting on Wednesday.
Separately, the Pentagon vowed to make it "harder" to sell its weapons to Russia, warning further that the US believes Tehran may soon supply Moscow with conventional missiles. Spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing that there are Iranian trainers and technicians helping the Russian military, but that it is Russians operating the UAVs. He said IRGC operatives are already in Crimea:
The White House said Thursday that the U.S. has evidence that Iranian troops are "directly engaged on the ground" in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure and civilian population.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Iran has sent a "relatively small number" of personnel to Crimea, a part of Ukraine unilaterally annexed by Russia in contravention of international law in 2014, to assist Russian troops in launching Iranian-made drones against Ukraine.
New Washington Post reporting suggests the Pentagon and US intelligence have recovered downed drone wreckage, which would be crucial in studying how to enable Ukraine forces to better defend against them. "The US government has examined the wreckage of Iranian-made drones shot down in Ukraine, deepening its insight into the unmanned craft that Russia has launched in a spate of kamikaze attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure, according to two U.S. officials," the report says.
Russian official did not understand that his microphone was already on and asked the hosts: “don’t rock the boat” and don't talk too much about Iran pic.twitter.com/qkxX7uE3Ot— Special Kherson Cat 🐈🇺🇦 (@bayraktar_1love) October 20, 2022
WaPo continues: "Information about the drones’ structure and technology could prove crucial in helping the United States and its Ukrainian allies better identify and ultimately defeat them before they can reach their targets." And further: "Officials said the process has been used in the past to study weaponry deployed by Iran’s proxies in conflicts in the Middle East."