The Unites States reportedly believes that Russian forces have begun training in Iran to use combat drones made by the Islamic Republic, which the Biden administration has alleged Moscow is looking to purchase for its war in Ukraine.
“During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” an unnamed US official told CNN on Tuesday.
The official added that the US has recently declassified intelligence on the training.
There was no comment from Russia on the report.
Last month, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan revealed that Tehran is preparing to sell Moscow hundreds of attack drones and that Russian officials recently visited Iran twice to assess the unmanned aircraft. Sullivan said at the time that training could begin as soon as July.
Satellite imagery released by the White House showed Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones at or flying near the Kashan airfield, where the US alleges the Russian officials were given a showcase. Israel revealed the location of the air base last year, alleging it was being used to train Iran’s regional proxies to operate advanced drones.
Iran’s foreign minister has rejected reports on exporting Iranian drones to Russia, calling them “baseless.”
The CNN report on Russian officers training in Iran came the same day that an Iranian satellite launched by Russia blasted off and went into orbit amid controversy that Moscow might use it to improve its surveillance of military targets in Ukraine.
During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for “long-term cooperation” with Russia, and Tehran has refused to join international condemnation of Moscow’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.