The US has alleged that Iran deployed military experts in Russian-occupied Crimea to help launch drone attacks on Ukraine.
The allegation comes as Ukraine has cut ties with Iran for allegedly helping Russia with drones used to attack Ukranian cities, allegations Russia and Iran have both denied even though videos on social media released by the Ukranian military showed Iranian named drones destroyed or detonated in Ukraine.
Russia-Ukraine war: Iranian drone experts helped launch drone attacks against Ukraine – US alleges
The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was struck by “kamikaze” drones on Monday, deployed by Russia but believed to be Iranian-made. The UK has announced sanctions on Iranian businesses and individuals responsible for supplying the drones, saying the military supply goes against United Nations sanctions.
“We assess that Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
A “relatively small” number of Iranians are providing technical support and Russians are piloting the drones in Ukraine, he said.
“Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground, and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” Kirby said.
The US will “pursue all means” to “expose, deter and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions against the Ukrainian people”, he added.
Ukraine identified the drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – used on Monday as Iranian Shahed-136 weapons.
They are known as “kamikaze” drones because they are destroyed in the attack – named after the Japanese fighter pilots who flew suicide missions in World War Two.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of placing explosives on a key dam in southern Ukraine.
If the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant is critically damaged, 80 towns and cities could be flooded and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could be left without water for cooling, Mr Zelensky said.
It could also deprive the whole of southern Ukraine, including Crimea, of its water supply.