EU gathers evidence of Russia’s alleged use of Iranian drones in Ukraine

Poland’s foreign affairs minister says EU is ready to act if enough evidence is presented

The EU's Josep Borrell, speaking to the media as he arrives for the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg. EPA
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The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Monday said that Brussels had intelligence on the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia and is “ready to act” should it find sufficient proof of their use in Ukraine.

“Evidence exists,” said Mr Borrell, regarding the transfer of drones. “It has been provided by the relevant intelligence services, including Ukrainian intelligence services.

“Ukraine is absolutely convinced that they are under this sort of attack and will continue to provide us with evidence to that end.”

Russia on Monday stepped up attacks across Ukraine, cutting electricity in “hundreds” of towns and killing eight people, including four in kamikaze drone strikes in the capital Kyiv.

United Nations Security Council permanent members Britain and France are forming a view that the deployment represents a breach of Tehran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, something that could be referred. Polish foreign affairs minister Zbigniew Rau said there was consensus among EU countries that there should be sanctions on Iran if investigations confirm that its drones are being used in Ukraine.

Mr Borrell said that Iran’s foreign affairs minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian “categorically denied to me personally that any drones had been sent to be used in the war in Ukraine”.

French foreign minister Catherine Colonna said that ministers discussed the possibility of a ninth round of sanctions against Russia but wanted to first examine the issue of Iranian drones. “It could represent a violation of UN resolutions,” she said.

Nato’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the western alliance would provide Ukraine with “hundreds of drone jammers which can help render ineffective Russian and Iranian-made drones”.

Analysts have told The National that Iranian-made drones are difficult to jam. “Some of these systems are pre-programmable so that you programme for instance the GPS co-ordinates of targets into the drone and they find their way there,” said Rafael Loss, co-ordinator of pan-European data projects at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “These are quite difficult to jam through electronic means.”

But other kinds of drones, which communicate with a control centre for their navigation and target selection, may be disrupted with the help of jammers, he added.

EU foreign ministers also stepped up their military support for Kyiv by launching a mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers and providing 500 million euros more for weapons.

Speaking to his EU counterparts from a bunker in Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for more sanctions against Russia.

Moscow is thought to be trying to counter battlefield losses by waging a punitive policy of damaging energy facilities before winter in a move that President Vladimir Putin hopes will weaken Ukrainian resistance in the eight-month war.

New sanctions against Iran

EU foreign affairs ministers on Monday also adopted fresh sanctions against Iran linked to government repression against protesters.

“For me, it's very important that we sanction the ones who are responsible for the atrocities against the Iranian people, the young people that are demonstrating for their fundamental rights,” said Denmark’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod.

Human rights groups have reported that at least 200 protesters have been killed since anti-government protests started on September 17 after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained by the morality police for allegedly breaking strict hijab rules.

The latest EU sanctions target 11 people and four entities, including Iran’s morality police and its law enforcement forces.

The morality police was also sanctioned by the US last month.

The EU, which is currently mediating in stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, has lagged behind Washington on imposing sanctions on Tehran.

Asked by a reporter why the EU did not adopt tougher sanctions against Iran, Mr Borrell argued that Monday’s sanctions will have a strong political impact.

“It’s not the last such decision we will take probably but it’s how we start a process of manifest disapproval in circumstances like the ones we are seeing in Iran,” he said.

The UK last week also imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and five leading officials involved in the repression against protesters.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Monday rejected Iran's accusations of western-fomented chaos.

“The pressure for change is not being led or influenced by the West: it is growing from within,” he said.

Updated: October 17, 2022, 6:03 PM