Iran has started training Russian officials to operate advanced drones, the Biden administration said, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The report stated this is indicative of Russia's plans to take control of the skies above Ukraine.
The training, part of an agreement for Tehran to send hundreds of drones to Russia, began a few weeks ago, a U.S. official said.
Last month, the Biden administration, the report stated, released declassified intelligence pertaining to secret talks between Russia and Iran. The release of the intel is being construed as an effort to deter Russia and Iran from using drones on Ukrainian forces. And while the training suggests Russia and Iran are preparing to send those drones into battle, the two countries have since denied the U.S.'s allegations.
As of Wednesday, the Kremlin and Russia's defense ministry haven't responded to requests for comment. Likewise, Iran's foreign ministry has denied providing drones to Russia.
Still, last month, the U.S. released unclassified photos that the White House said were indicative of Russian officials visiting an Iranian military drone base. The U.S. said the Russian officials were shown two types of drones they could use against Ukraine: "the Shahed-129, a Predator-style drone that can fly more than 1,000 miles with missiles, and the Shahed-191, a flying-wing drone capable of carrying missiles for about 300 miles."
Both drones would allow Moscow access to new firepower against Ukraine, which has been using Turkish drones to fight Russia forces to great effect.
Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Russia's "deepening an alliance with Iran, to kill Ukrainians, is something that the whole world should look at."
U.S. officials say Russia's turn toward Iran for help is an effort to counter American military support for Ukraine.
This week, Turkish media reported that Baykar, the Turkish company developing the Bayraktar drone used by Ukrainians, is building a drone factory in Ukraine. Additionally, the U.S. is sending Ukraine over 500 small kamikaze-style battlefield drones, with Turkey having already provided some 50 of its advanced drones.
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