European Union prepares to sanction Iran over Russia drone sales

EU drawing up list of individuals and entities to be targeted; Ukraine military says 223 Shahed-136s shot down in little over a month

Illustrative: In this photo released by the Iranian Army on August 25, 2022, a drone is launched in a military drone drill in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)
Illustrative: In this photo released by the Iranian Army on August 25, 2022, a drone is launched in a military drone drill in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The EU is working toward fresh sanctions on Iran after collecting “sufficient evidence” it is supplying Russia with deadly drones for use in Ukraine, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

“Now that we have gathered our own sufficient evidence work is ongoing in the [European] Council in view of a clear, swift and firm EU response,” said Nabila Massrali, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

EU diplomats told AFP there was work underway on Wednesday to draw up a list of Iranian individuals and entities linked to the drones who would be added to the bloc’s sanctions blacklist.

One diplomat said it was expected that the list would be finalized in time for a meeting of European leaders starting late Thursday.

The EU on Monday imposed its last round of sanctions on Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was grabbed by the country’s “morality police,” and the regime’s subsequent repression of protests that triggered.

Those sanctions targeted the “morality police” and other security forces, as well as the country’s telecommunications minister Issa Zarepour, held responsible for internet blackouts in Iran.

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

Ukraine has for weeks been accusing Iran of supplying Russia with Shahed-136 drones — unmanned aircraft equipped with a warhead — for attacks, and urged EU sanctions.

Ukraine’s military on Wednesday said it had shot down more than 220 Iranian-made drones in a little more than one month, following this week’s attacks that used “kamikaze drones.”

“Since the first downing of an Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drone on the territory of Ukraine on September 13, the… Air Force and other components of the Defense Forces of Ukraine have destroyed 223 UAVs of this type,” the military said in a statement.

Borrell on Monday, after an EU foreign ministers’ meeting focused on the war in Ukraine, said evidence was still being gathered on the alleged Russian use of Iranian drones.

He noted that Iran has denied supplying the drones to Russia. If proven, such transfers could violate a UN resolution prohibiting Iran from exporting certain weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during celebrations marking the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (Grigory Sysoyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia, too, has issued a denial. The Kremlin on Tuesday said it had “no information” of its forces using Iranian drones and said only “Russian tech is used.”

The hardening EU stance towards Tehran appeared to bury deeper hopes of reviving a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has been eroded since then-president Donald Trump withdrew US support in 2018.

Borrell has over the past year and half been in charge of coordinating efforts, so far unsuccessfully, to bring the US and Iran back into full compliance with the accord, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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