Iran and Russia have struck a deal to build hundreds of weaponized drones on Russian soil as the war in Ukraine approaches its nine-month mark, according to The Washington Post.
The Post reported on Saturday that Russian and Iranian officials reached the deal earlier this month and the countries are handing over designs and parts of the drones to potentially begin production within months, based on interviews with three officials familiar with the matter.
Iran is officially neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but faced international criticism after intelligence reports revealed that Russia has used Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian military and civilian targets.
Tehran initially denied the reports, but admitted earlier in November that it gave a “limited” number of drones to Russia, saying it did so before the war started and does not know how they were used.
The officials told the Post that Russia could significantly increase its weapons supply through the deal by acquiring its own assembly line to make the drones, as production would be in Russia.
Several members of NATO, including the United States, have reviewed intelligence on the agreement, the Post reported.
Moscow has sent more than 400 drones to Ukraine since August, often to attack civilian infrastructure, the paper said, citing intelligence officials.
Russia earlier this week sent a barrage of missiles at several targets in Ukraine, mainly targeting the country’s electrical infrastructure, after Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they had captured since their large-scale invasion began in February. .
The deal would see Russia receive necessary supplies and Iran would receive economic and political benefits as it strengthens its ties with Russia, the officials told the Post.
The officials told the outlet that Iran may be hoping to avoid additional sanctions with the drones being assembled in Russia rather than being sent there.
After conquering parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, Russia has struggled to make a profit in what Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently hoped would be a quick invasion. Ukraine has recaptured thousands of square miles of territory from Russia as part of a counter-offensive that began two months ago.
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