Iranian drone use in Ukraine 'truly unacceptable', top US official says

Russia warns it could stop working with UN chief if he sends inspectors to Ukraine

Ukrainian forces say Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones been fired at targets across the country. EPA
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Using Iranian drones in Ukraine is "truly unacceptable", a senior US State Department official said, as Russia warned the UN Security Council not to investigate strikes in Kyiv reportedly carried out with Tehran-made unmanned aerial vehicles.

Iranian drones being used in Ukraine is also “dangerous and something that that we need to work against", State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet told The National on Wednesday.

Mr Chollet spoke as the Security Council gathered for a closed-door meeting where Russia warned the UN that it would have to reassess its "collaboration" with Secretary General Antonio Guterres if he sent inspectors to Ukraine to examine drone wreckage.

“We do not want to do it but there will be no other choice,” Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said after the meeting, which had been called by the US, UK and France.

“We hope that the UN Secretariat and the Secretary General himself will not again violate the decisions of the UN Security Council and will not go beyond their technical mandate”, and abstain from engaging in any unnecessary investigation, Mr Polyanskiy said.

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

Iran is also reported to have sent experts to train Russian forces to use the drones.

"There is ample evidence that Russia is using Iranian-made [drones] in cruel and deliberate attacks against the people of Ukraine, including against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure," the US mission to the UN said.

"By procuring these weapons in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, Russia continues to flout international law in its pursuit of a senseless and brutal war against Ukraine."

Iran's UN ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani “categorically” denied allegations that it had transferred drones to Russia and accused the West of trying to launch a disinformation campaign against Tehran.

In a letter sent to the Security Council on Tuesday, Ukraine's UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya invited experts to examine the wreckage of the drones he said were used by Russia against civilian targets.

The letter, seen by The National, said the Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones were transferred to Russian forces in late August and that it is believed more shipments will follow.

The apparent increase in Iranian involvement in Ukraine comes just as the regime in Tehran is violently clamping down on a popular protest movement, led by women and now in its second month, in which demonstrators take to streets across the country.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has spent the past 18 months trying to reach a deal that would see Iran return to a 2015 nuclear agreement designed to slow its path to developing a nuclear bomb.

But negotiations are in limbo as Tehran adds last-minute demands to a US and European-backed deal.

The US has left the door open for diplomacy even as it condemns the protests in Iran and seeks to help protesters receive internet access.

Mr Chollet, a State Department veteran who previously served as US assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said the Biden administration would do all it could to tackle malign Iranian activities.

US State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet. AP

“With or without a deal, we're going to use every tool that we have to confront and address Iran's proliferation activities," he said.

Mr Chollet said they included "its regional provocations, its threats against Americans. And of course … the abuses against its own people".

After the closed Security Council meeting late on Wednesday, France's UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said there was a “very clear indication” that the drones were delivered to Russia and have been used in Ukraine.

“This is a violation UN Resolution 2231,” Mr de Riviere said. “The use of these drones to kill civilians is another violation of international law.”

Updated: October 20, 2022, 4:03 AM
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