Moscow and Tehran have deepened their defense ties under a deal in which Iranian-designed drones will be built in Russia for use in Ukraine, Western security officials have told the Washington Post.
Previously, Moscow and Tehran denied that arms deliveries had taken place amid the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
The agreement to give Russia its own assembly line will enable Moscow to rapidly expand its arsenal of relatively inexpensive and highly effective Iranian drones, the newspaper reported on Saturday, citing three unidentified people familiar with the matter. The deal was reportedly agreed earlier this month at a meeting in Iran.
According to the Post, Russia and Iran are working rapidly to transfer designs and key components for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could allow production to begin within months.
Russian forces have already deployed 400 Iranian-made attack drones since August, advancing its strategy of “relentless air assaults on Ukrainian cities,” according to the report.
Self-detonating UAVs packed with explosives have reportedly been used to knock out electricity facilities and other infrastructure.
The UAV manufacturing deal would enable Russia to shore up its supply of precision-guided munitions, while Iranian leaders believe they can avoid further sanctions because the drones would not be assembled in their country, the Post said.
Allegations of arms deliveries from Iran to Russia surfaced in recent months after Moscow began using kamikaze drones in Ukraine.
Kiev insists that the drones, known as Geran-2, are actually Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs. The US and its allies claim that Iran has been supplying Russia with drones in violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that his nation only provided Russia with a “small number of drones” months before the conflict began.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in October that all weapons used by Russian troops are from domestic stockpiles, and “all further questions can be addressed to the Defense Ministry.”