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At least 10 Iranians said killed by Ukraine as Moscow-Iran arms ties seem to deepen

Ukrainian official says deaths occurred in two separate strikes, without providing more detail, following report that Iranian trainers were in Crimea to help deploy killer drones

Ukrainian artillerymen stand at their position in Kharkiv region on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
Ukrainian artillerymen stand at their position in Kharkiv region on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)

Ukrainian strikes in the past week against Russia’s ongoing invasion killed at least 10 Iranians, a Ukrainian official told Hebrew media on Friday.

The official told the Kan public broadcaster that the deaths occurred in two separate strikes in areas where Iranians were.

There were no further details about the circumstances of the strikes.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Iran sent military trainers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to Russian-occupied Crimea to help Moscow’s troops use Iranian drones against Ukraine.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of deploying Iranian-made drones in attacks against Ukraine in recent weeks as Moscow and Tehran appear to be growing closer.

Russia has denied using Iranian drones in Ukraine and Iran has denied sending Russia weaponry.

Russia has been bombarding Ukraine with drones and other weapons in attacks against Ukrainian energy and infrastructure sites. Ukraine believes Russia has used dozens of Iranian suicide drones in attacks on civilian targets, including in Kyiv.

Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna, File)

The drones are the Shahed-136 model aircraft used for air-to-surface attacks. The so-called kamikaze drones carry a small warhead and crash into their targets, exploding on impact. They have a range of about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).

Iranian trainers from the IRGC, a branch of the military the US lists as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, are assisting Russia in the campaign out of a military base in Crimea, the report said, citing current and former US officials who had been briefed on classified intelligence.

Many of the Iranian drones have been based in Crimea since they were delivered to Russia, the report said.

Russia initially sent its own personnel to Iran to learn how to use the drones, but the weapons were plagued by problems after they arrived in Russian territory. Iran then sent its trainers to Crimea to address the malfunctions, the report said.

It’s unclear whether the Iranians are operating the drones themselves, the Tuesday report said.

The drones have hit electricity infrastructure and have killed numerous Ukrainian civilians.

This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)

In addition to the drones, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Tehran has agreed to sell to Moscow Fateh 110 and Zolfaghar short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

The introduction of assistance to Russia from Israel’s regional rival has amplified calls from Ukraine for defense assistance from the Jewish state. However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has repeatedly reiterated in recent days that Israel will not send weapons systems to Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed “deep concern about the military ties between Iran and Russia” during a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday. Separately, in a TV interview, Lapid warned that Russian-Iranian arms ties put “the whole world on Thursday in danger.”

Israel has sought to preserve its increasingly fraught ties with Russia during the war. Russia controls the airspace over Syria, where Israel acts against Iranian-linked targets, including the Hezbollah terror group. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also said Tuesday that Israel fears its weaponry could end up in Iranian hands if it is sent abroad.

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