The European Union’s foreign policy chief said Monday the bloc was looking for concrete evidence of Iranian involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a number of foreign ministers called for sanctions on Tehran after Kyiv was hit by a wave of suicide drones.
Explosive-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine’s capital early Monday, the blasts echoing across Kyiv. Exactly how many drones were used in the attack wasn’t immediately clear, but they appeared to include Iranian-made Shaheds.
“We will look for concrete evidence about the participation [of Iran in the Ukraine war],” said Josep Borrell as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, according to the Reuters news agency.
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that a strong response with “concrete steps” was required after Kyiv was apparently hit with the Iran-made drones.
“What we can see now: Iranian drones are used apparently to attack in the middle of Kyiv, this is an atrocity,” Kofod said.
According to Reuters, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said should Iran’s role in Russia’s war on Ukraine be proven, “then it will be no longer about some individuals to be sanctioned.”
While there is not expected to be immediate sanctions over Tehran’s supply of drones to Moscow, EU ministers are due to take action against Iran over its crackdown on the protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.
Some 15 officials and entities, including the head of Iran’s morality police, are expected to be added to an assets freeze and visa ban blacklist, EU diplomats said. The EU, which is currently mediating stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, has lagged behind Washington on imposing sanctions on Tehran.
Iran vowed an “immediate” response to the EU if it imposes new sanctions.
Iran will “decide and act immediately in accordance with the decisions and actions” taken by EU member countries, foreign ministry spokesman Naser Kanani said.
“If they initiate new sanctions, this action is definitely unconstructive and irrational.”
The United States, Britain and Canada have already announced sanctions against Iran over rights violations.
Tehran has accused the United States and some US allies of fomenting the protests.
Also Monday, Ukraine said Russia had attacked Kyiv with a swarm of “kamikaze drones,” in what the president’s office said was an act of desperation nearly eight months into Russia’s invasion.
The Ukrainian military said Iran-made drones and missiles were targeting towns and cities across the country. It estimated that Russian forces had fired two missiles and 26 air strikes, and carried out more than 80 rocket attacks.
“In the past 13 hours, the Ukrainian military shot down 37 Iranian Shahed-136 drones and three cruise missiles launched by Russian terrorists,” the defense ministry said.
The claim could not be independently verified.
A report by a US think tank last week suggested that personnel affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may be training Russian troops on the use of the Shahed-136 drones.
The report by the Institute for the Study of War cited the “Ukrainian Resistance Center,” which said the training was held in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, but provided no further evidence for the claim.
According to a US media report on Sunday, Iran is planning to ship further missiles and drones to boost Russia’s dwindling supplies.
Monday’s attack came exactly one week after Russia launched a massive two-day salvo of missile strikes over cities across Ukraine that disrupted energy and water supplies nationwide.
Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv shortly before the first explosion at around 6:35 am (0335 GMT), followed by sirens across most of the country.
“All night and all morning, the enemy terrorizes the civilian population. Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine. The enemy can attack our cities, but it won’t be able to break us,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said a residential building in the central Shevchenkivsky district of the capital had been hit and that at least one person was killed.
“The remains of one woman was recovered from the rubble of a house in Shevchenkivskyi district, where an explosion occurred as a result of a drone attack. Another person is under the rubble. Three people were hospitalized,” Klitschko said on Telegram.
Klitschko also posted a picture of what he said was the charred wreckage of one of the kamikaze drones — loitering munitions that can hover while waiting for a target to attack.
Уламок одного з дронів-камікадзе, які сьогодні зранку атакували Київ. pic.twitter.com/POR604l3LZ
— Віталій Кличко (@Vitaliy_Klychko) October 17, 2022
“We need more air defense systems and as soon as possible. More weapons to defend the sky and destroy the enemy,” Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on social media.
“The Russians think it will help them but it shows their desperation,” he also wrote.
Zelensky last week said Iranian drones were used in Russian attacks on energy infrastructure in several cities, although Tehran has repeatedly denied supplying Russia with weapons to be used in the war.
On October 10, Russian missiles rained down on Kyiv and other cities in the biggest wave of strikes in months. The attacks killed at least 19 people, wounded 105 others and sparked an international outcry.
Moscow carried out further strikes on October 11, though on a smaller scale, striking energy installations in western Ukraine far from the front.
Western allies of Ukraine have vowed to deliver new air defenses “as fast as we can,” after Kyiv pressed them to bolster protection against Russia’s blitz.
While Israel is reportedly providing Kyiv with “basic intelligence” on the Iranian suicide drones being deployed by the Russian army, it has resisted calls from Kyiv to provide anti-missile and drone technology.