February 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

Further Evidence Emerges of Iran’s Support for Russia’s War in Ukraine

February 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

Further Evidence Emerges of Iran’s Support for Russia’s War in Ukraine

Latest Developments

Citing sources in Iran, The Guardian reported on Sunday that Tehran has smuggled more drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. Russia reportedly received a dozen Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) as well as six Mohajer-6 drones, primarily used for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions. Tehran reportedly delivered the weaponry last November along with more than 50 Iranian technicians to help the Russian military integrate the systems.

Expert Analysis

“Tehran has emerged as a key defense industrial partner for Russia. Iranian-supplied loitering munitions supplement Moscow’s dwindling stocks of cruise missiles, helping Russia prosecute its strategic air campaign targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure, with the added benefit of forcing Ukraine to expend valuable interceptors. The Shahed-191, Shahed-129, and Mohajer-6 provide much-needed additional capacity for Russia, which came late to the drone game and has not indigenously produced UAVs in sufficient quantities.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“Iran’s experience with low-cost weapons systems that require expensive offsets is being replicated by Russia in Ukraine. With the anniversary of the war right around the corner, Iranian weapons are increasingly what is behind Russia’s ability to mete out punishment and keep the conflict going.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

New Drones in Ukraine

Open-source evidence had already confirmed that Iran provided the Mohajer-6 to Moscow beginning late last summer, along with hundreds of Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 loitering munitions. By contrast, the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 have not been spotted publicly in Ukraine. After a Russian delegation reportedly expressed interest in the two UCAVs last summer, The Washington Post, citing an unnamed allied security official, reported that Moscow had received the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 as part of its initial shipment of Iranian drones in August. But no evidence has since emerged to confirm their arrival in Ukraine, save for a sole, unconfirmed Ukrainian military report in October claiming that Ukrainian troops had downed a Shahed-129.

Russia and Iran’s Deepening Partnership

Moscow and Tehran have doubled down on their partnership following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The two authoritarian regimes have pursued deeper economic cooperation, including by working together to evade Western sanctions. In October, the White House accused Moscow of advising the Islamic Republic on how to suppress anti-regime protests in Iran.

In addition to providing drones directly to Russia, Iran is helping Moscow localize production of the Shahed-136, potentially enabling it to produce thousands of the loitering munitions. The two sides have also reportedly discussed a Russian purchase of Iranian short-range ballistic missiles, although so far there has been no public indication that Russia has received the missiles.

Russian Support for Iran’s Military

In return for the Iranian weapons, Moscow has offered Tehran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in December.

Moscow has also reportedly sent Tehran captured Western military equipment for Iran to dissect. Russia is now preparing to sell Iran advanced military equipment, including the Su-35 fighter aircraft. Iranian pilots began training on the Su-35 last spring.

Related Analysis

Iranian drones could make Russia’s military more lethal in Ukraine,” by John Hardie, Ryan Brobst, and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran Aids Russia’s Imperialist War Against Ukraine,” by John Hardie

Iranian Shahed-136 Drones Increase Russian Strike Capacity and Lethality in Ukraine,” by Ryan Brobst and John Hardie

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Behnam Ben Taleblu


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran Sanctions Israel Military and Political Power Russia Sanctions and Illicit Finance U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy Ukraine