Senior European Union officials on Wednesday said that sanctions on Iran for sending kamikaze drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine will be announced “very soon”.
The measures will come days after the EU sanctioned Iran for human rights abuses against protesters.
“There must be a reaction to the use of Iranian drones by Russia which are attacking civilians,” a European diplomat told reporters in Brussels. “We have sufficient proof to prepare sanctions which will definitely be adopted very soon.”
A senior European official on Wednesday said that he expected sanctions on Iran to be discussed during the European Council meeting that will be held in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
“We are in the process of sanctions on Iran,” he said.
On Wednesday, an official at the French presidency also told reporters that new EU sanctions against Iranian citizens and entities would be approved this week.
Europe’s energy crisis will dominate discussions between European presidents and prime ministers meeting over the next two days in Belgium, but Iran is also on the agenda.
So far, Ukraine has managed to deny Russian warplanes control of its airspace, with evidence pointing to at least 60 aircraft destroyed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. This is one of the reasons why Russia is relying more on older, long-range missiles and drones from Iran, analysts say.
Ukraine has released images of the wreckage of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, which explode on impact, in the past weeks.
On Monday, the capital Kyiv was hit by as many as 28 explosive drones, the city's mayor said, and on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military claimed that it had shot down more than 220 Iranian-made drones in little more than a month.
Iran’s supply of drones to Russia violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, a US State Department spokesman said on Wednesday. Israel also announced that it would help Ukraine in building an early warning defence system but would not provide weapons to the country.
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Monday said that the bloc was still gathering evidence on the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia. Evidence was provided by “the relevant intelligence services, including Ukrainian intelligence services”, he said.
Asked on Wednesday what had changed in the EU’s position in the past two days, the senior official answered “growing evidence of such implication”, though he declined to give more details, saying that such information was classified.
If adopted this week, the latest European sanctions on Iran would follow another package of recently announced sanctions aimed at punishing the Iranian government for its bloody repression of protesters.
So far, at least 200 people have died in the anti-government movement that started after the death in police custody of a 22-year-old woman, human rights group say.
The woman, Mahsa Amini, had been detained by Iran’s morality police — which was hit with EU sanctions on Monday — for allegedly breaking the country's strict hijab rules.
The New York Times on Monday reported that Iran is also sending trainers to a Russian military base in Crimea to help Russians overcome problems with using its drones.
There have been additional recent reports that Iran has secretly agreed not only to send drones to Russia, but also surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles intended for use in Ukraine. The missiles can strike at a distance of 300 to 700 kilometres, according to The Washington Post.
Iran has repeatedly denied sending drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.