Russia has reached a deal with Iran to begin manufacturing kamikaze drones on Russian soil, after long weeks of attacking Ukrainian cities with Iranian-made aircraft, according to a Saturday report.
Western officials cited by the Washington Post said Russian and Iranian officials finalized the deal during a meeting in Iran earlier this month. They said the information was based on new intelligence seen by American and other Western security agencies.
The newspaper, citing three unnamed officials familiar with the matter, said Iran and Russia had rapidly begun to transfer designs and key components to begin production of such drones within months.
“It is proceeding quickly from decision-making to implementation. It is moving fast and it has a lot of steam,” one official told the Washington Post.
The meeting in Tehran in November involved a team of Russian defense industry negotiators to work out the logistics, the report said, citing security officials.
Iran and Russia initially denied the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine, contradicting multiple Western officials and evidence in Ukraine showing the remains of explosive drones appearing to match Iran’s Shahed drones.
Tehran later admitted sending drones but insisted they were supplied to its ally before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Western nations have disputed this, saying the first shipment was arranged in the summer.
Russia has been slamming the drones into Ukrainian energy infrastructure and other civilian targets.
According to some reports, Russia’s drone supply is running low and the new deal could solve the issue, ending the need to ship them in from Iran.
Several western nations have imposed sanctions on Iranian officials and arms firms over the drone shipments.
The signs of increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran have added to concerns over Iran’s nuclear efforts, with negotiations to restore the 2015 deal with world powers all but abandoned.
Earlier this month, CNN reported that Iran had requested assistance from the Kremlin for its nuclear program if it fails to restore the deal.
AP contributed to this report.