US claims Iran-made ‘kamikaze’ drones used by Russia to bomb Ukraine breach international law

The US and its western allies have claimed that Iran supplying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine is a breach of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions.

Kyiv has accused Russia of attacking Ukraine using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks. The drone strikes continued on Monday in a renewed attack that left at least four people dead.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops intercepted and shot down 37 Iranian drones and several cruise missiles in just 12 hours during Monday’s early morning attack on central Kyiv.

On Monday, US state department spokesperson Vedant Patel, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed in Ukraine, said the alleged import of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones by Russia violated international law.

“Earlier today our French and British allies publicly offered the assessment that Iran’s supply of these UAVs [for] Russia is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231. This is something that we agree with,” Mr Patel said.

Under Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the six western countries – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – a conventional arms embargo was put in place that had expired in October 2020.

The UNSC had rejected US efforts to extend the arms embargo, paving the way for Tehran to resume arms exports.

But Mr Patel said it was the US’s “belief” that the “kamikaze” drones, named after Japanese suicide pilots deployed during the Second World War, “are among the weapons that would remain embargoed under 2231” without elaborating further.

Some western diplomats cited by news agency Reuters, however, said that the resolution still includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies until October 2023. They said this encompassed the export and purchase of advanced military systems like drones.

Iran has, however, denied supplying the “kamikaze” drones to Russia, even as western countries such as the UK, France and a host of other EU nations suggested fresh sanctions for the alleged violation of Resolution 2231.

Mr Patel claimed that a deepening alliance between Iran and Russia should be seen as a threat by the whole world.

“This is something that we’re continuing to monitor closely on our end… to address Iran’s dangerous proliferation of weapons to Russia,” the state department spokesperson said.

“Anyone doing business with Iran, that can have any link to UAVs or ballistic missile developments or the flow of arms from Iran to Russia, should be very careful and do their due diligence,” he added.

“The US will not hesitate to use sanctions.”

The drones, of which hundreds are believed to have been sought from Tehran by Moscow, are packed with explosives and flown directly into a target.

Mr Patel added that Washington had issued warnings in July about the possibility of Iran selling drones to Russia to use against Ukraine.

“We also exposed publicly that Russia has received drones from Iran, that this was part of Russia’s plan to import hundreds of Iranian UAVs of various types,” he said.

“There’s extensive proof of their use by Russia against both military and civilian targets there.”