Russia May Be Running Low on Iranian Drones

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(Bloomberg) — Russia’s stocks of Iranian-made drones appear to be running low, according to the latest assessments of European officials, who say their use against Ukraine has fallen significantly over the past 10 days.

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Prior to that dozens of drones were regularly deployed against Ukrainian energy infrastructure, though most were shot down by the country’s air defenses. The government in Kyiv said in December that Russia had received an order of 250 drones from Iran, without specifying where it got the information. One of the people said Russia was constantly working to obtain more drones as well as other military supplies from Iran and other sources.

The supply squeeze comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine nears the one-year mark, and with fighting still very bogged down in eastern areas, even as Moscow’s forces step up their attacks. Russia has leaned increasingly on drones and missiles to try and weaken critical infrastructure across the country.

Ukraine’s allies have identified Tehran as a key supplier to Moscow’s war efforts. Evidence shared among countries shows that drones observed in Ukraine have matching characteristics to Iranian-made drones seen elsewhere, one of the people said. Parts recovered in Ukraine, including engines and wing stabilizers, are similarly consistent, the person added. That’s even as Tehran has repeatedly denied shipping Russia supplies of drones.

The lull could be due to the fact Russia is saving stocks for future attacks. Group of Seven nations and the European Union have been looking to disrupt the supplies, especially focusing on companies in other countries and Russia’s access to any Western components that could be used for military purposes. The EU is discussing sanctions and export restrictions on seven Iranian entities this week, including those linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as it seeks to tighten any potential evasion and circumvention of its sanctions.

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“We propose, among other things export restrictions on multiple electronic components used in Russian armed systems — such as drones, missiles, helicopters,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week.

–With assistance from Marc Champion.

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