Iranian-Made Drones

Ukraine Says Russia Using Iranian-Made Drones In Conflict As Kyiv Works To Consolidate Gains

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Ukraine says it has for the first time encountered an Iranian-made suicide drone used by Russia on the battlefield, where its military has pushed Russian forces out of hundreds of cities and towns in the northeast of the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address on September 13 that Ukraine was in full control of more than 4,000 square kilometers of territory recaptured from Russian forces and is stabilizing another 4,000 square kilometers.

Despite the sizeable gains of the Ukrainian forces, U.S. President Joe Biden late on September 13 predicted “a long haul” ahead.

On September 14, the Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate published what it said were images of the wreckage of what appeared to be a delta-shaped drone flown by Iran known as the Shahed-136, or “Witness” in Persian.

Ukrainian troops encountered the drone near Kupyansk amid Kyiv’s offensive that has punched through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front, the Ukrainian military said.

The Shahed drone appeared to have been shot down by Ukrainian forces and hadn’t detonated on impact as designed, though little other information was immediately released by Kyiv.

An inscription on the drone identified it as an “M214 Gran-2,” which didn’t immediately correspond to known Russian military equipment.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. Russia did not acknowledge the Ukrainian claim.

The British Ministry of Defense, in an intelligence update on September 14, similarly noted the Ukrainian shootdown claim, saying, “Russia has highly likely deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles…in Ukraine for the first time.”

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more-strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory,” British intelligence said.

In July, U.S. intelligence publicly warned that Iran planned to send hundreds of bomb-carrying drones to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine.

Iran initially denied the accusation but the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has boasted in recent days about arming the world’s top powers.

The Ukrainian military has pushed Russian forces out of hundreds of cities and towns in the northeast of the country, and Zelenskiy said the stabilization of the liberated communities is under way.

“As of this time, stabilization measures have been completed in areas with a total area of more than 4,000 square kilometers, and stabilization continues in approximately the same liberated territory,” Zelenskiy said. “Remnants of occupying forces, sabotage groups are discovered, collaborators are detained, full security is restored.”

Just one day before, Zelenskiy had said Ukraine had retaken 6,000 square kilometers in its recent counteroffensive in the northeast, where dozens of areas, including the cities of Izyum, Kupyansk, and Balaklia, have been retaken.

Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region have since September 6 reclaimed more than 300 settlements and areas home to around 150,000 people, said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, speaking in the central square of Balaklia.

A senior U.S. military official said Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv and pulled many of its troops back over the border.

With the recapture of nearly all of the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian advance could soon spread into neighboring Luhansk and Donetsk, where Russia has concentrated its forces in an effort to expand territory held by Kremlin-backed separatists since 2014.

In Washington, Biden, asked whether Ukraine has reached a turning point in the six-month war, said it was hard to tell.

“It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul,” Biden said on September 13.

The White House, which has provided billions of dollars of weapons and support to Ukraine, has said the United States is likely to announce a new military aid package in the “coming days.”

Though the recent territorial shifts marked one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since its troops were repelled from Kyiv in the early days of the war, Moscow signaled it was no closer to agreeing to a negotiated peace, and the Kremlin insisted it would achieve its military goals.

Russia said it was carrying out strikes across the Ukrainian front line and accused Ukrainian soldiers of abusing civilians in the recaptured territories.

Air, rocket, and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes on units of the Ukrainian armed forces in all operational directions,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict.

“High-precision” strikes have also been launched on Ukrainian positions around Slovyansk and Kostyantynivka in the eastern Donetsk region, it added.

In a phone call on September 13, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to find a diplomatic solution for the conflict based on a cease-fire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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