The Iranian military has personnel in Crimea to train Russian troops on how to fly drones that have decimated civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, the White House said Thursday.
“They can lie to the world, but they certainly can’t hide the facts, and the fact is this: Tehran is now directly involved on the ground,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Russia began purchasing Shahed-136, or “kamikaze drones,” from Iran this summer and used them to target Kiev and other parts of Ukraine, according to US and Ukrainian officials.
Iran sent a “relatively small number” of “trainers and technical support” to the Crimea after Russian forces struggled to properly fly the drones, according to Kirby.
“The systems themselves were failing and not functioning to the standards that customers apparently expected,” Kirby said Thursday.
RUSSIA USES IRAN-MADE “KAMIKAZE DRONES” TO HIT AROUND KIEV
Russia seized the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and used the area as a base for its military after the February invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that about a third of the country’s power plants have been destroyed since October 10 by drones and missiles, complicating Ukraine’s defense ahead of the winter months.
The revelation of Iran’s support in Crimea comes as the United States imposes new sanctions on Iran for the death of a 22-year-old woman while in custody of the regime’s moral police and violent crackdown on protests.
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The Biden administration has also spent months trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but Kirby seemed to reject any hope of reaching a deal on Thursday.
“We’re not focused on diplomacy at this point,” Kirby told reporters. “What we focus on is making sure we hold the regime accountable for the way they treat peaceful protesters in their country and support those protesters.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.