Russian military expert caught admitting ‘we know they are Iranian drones’ on hot mic

Ruslan Pukhov was unaware he was on air during a Russian TV programme, after the Kremlin has repeatedly denied claims they have bought hardware from Iran

An Iranian Army image shows drones prepared for launch during a military drill in Iran. AP
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A Russian military expert was caught on a hot mic during a TV interview saying his country had received drones from Iran to attack Ukrainian cities after repeated denials from the Kremlin.

The clip of Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, with English subtitles, went viral on Russian and Ukrainian social media on Thursday.

“We all know the drones are Iranian but the government has not admitted to it. So let’s go easy on the subject of the drones," he said, apparently unaware that he was already live during the interview with Russian Business Channel RBC TV.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have released images of what analysts say is the wreckage of Iran-made Shahed-136 drones, fired at targets across the country.

They have a distinctive V-shape and tail fins that often survive explosive impact.

The so-called kamikaze drones — named because their attacks mimic Japanese suicide attack aircraft in the Second World War — are cheap and can be used in large swarms to overwhelm enemy air defences.

The White House confirmed for the first time on Thursday that Iranian troops had been training Russian forces in Crimea in the use of Tehran-made drones to strike Ukrainian cities including Kyiv.

“We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian [drones], using them to conduct strikes across Ukraine including against Kyiv in recent days,” White House National Security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

He said the US was no longer focusing on diplomacy with Iran over a proposed new nuclear deal.

Reuters reported this week that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, in addition to more drones, citing two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats.

A deal was agreed to on October 6 when Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, two senior officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and an official from the Supreme National Security Council visited Moscow for talks with Russia about the delivery of the weapons.

A western official told Reuters an agreement between Iran and Russia would provide surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar.

One of the drones Iran agreed to supply is the Shahed-136.

Tehran officially said on Tuesday it was ready for talks with Kyiv to clarify claims that Iran is providing Russia with weapons and drones to be used in the war against Ukraine.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had suggested to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Kyiv cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 8:32 AM