Iran has secretly supplied large quantities of bullets, rockets and mortar shells to Russia for the war in Ukraine and plans to send more, a security source told Sky News.
The source claimed that two Russian-flagged cargo ships left an Iranian port in January bound for Russia via the Caspian Sea, carrying about 100 million bullets and about 300,000 shells.
Ammunition for rocket launchers, mortars and machine guns would have been included in the shipments.
The source said Moscow paid for the ammunition in cash.
It has not been possible to independently verify the volume of alleged military assistance. An expert warned that the amount seemed high.
However, Sky News understands that it is suspected that Iran shipped a quantity of ammunition to Russia to help replenish its frontline stocks in Ukraine.
Russian supplies are believed to be running out after more than a year of President Putin’s full-scale war.
The alleged aid adds to previous allegations that Tehran supplied Moscow with hundreds of deadly droneswho played a role in attempts to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“Russia continues to use Iran as a ‘rear base’,” the security source said, describing the close military ties between the two countries.
Western and Ukrainian officials have also warned that Iran could supply far more deadly ballistic missiles, but there is no evidence that this is happening yet.
In addition to Iranian support, concern is growing in Western capitals about the potential for China start supplying Russia with weapons – a decision that UNITED STATES warned would have “serious consequences” for Beijing. China has denied these allegations.
The security source said the two general purpose cargo ships believed to have been involved in transferring ammunition from Iran to Russia were called the Musa Jalil and the Begey.
Both sail under the Russian flag.
Sky News has contacted the owner of the vessels in Russia to comment on the allegations, but has so far received no response.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Iranian Foreign Ministry have not yet responded to a request for comment.
The source said that one of the ships would have left Iran around January 10 and the other around January 12.
Between them, the two ships would have carried about 200 shipping containers full of weapons, according to the source.
The source said they were confident in their assessment of the amount of ammunition carried.
“Two hundred containers on two ships are capable of carrying this amount of ammunition,” the source added.
What Marine Tracking Data Tells Us
Research by Sky News’ Data & Forensics unit supported the general claim about the movement of ships, although the dates are slightly different.
It was not possible to independently verify what was being carried by the ships.
Maritime tracker MarineTraffic placed the two vessels in the Iranian port of Amirabad on the Caspian Sea on January 9. Satellite images the next day obtained by Sky News show at least one of the ships still in port.
According to maritime tracking data, the Musa Jalil left port around 10 a.m. local time on January 10, while the Begey left the same day.
On January 12, again according to tracking data, the two ships stopped off the coast of Turkmenistan for a few days. The reason for this is not known.
Musa Jalil and Begey then crossed the Caspian Sea and arrived at the Russian port of Astrakhan on 27 January. They remained in port for several days before setting sail again on February 3, according to tracking data.
The security source did not confirm the name of the Iranian port the two ships departed from, nor the Russian port they arrived at.
The source confirmed that the ships traveled to Russia via the Caspian Sea.
“Iran has sent two cargo ships to the combat zone in Ukraine, carrying about 200 new shipping containers containing ammunition for Russian combat in Ukraine,” the security source said.
What’s in the cargo?
The source listed the alleged shipment as comprising around 100 million bullets of various sizes – 5.56mm, 7.62mm, 9mm, 12.7mm and 14.5mm – for use in weapons such as pistols , assault rifles and machine guns.
The ships also carried a range of other ammunition, the source said, including around 300,000 shells, such as 40mm grenades for the grenade launchers, 107mm anti-tank rockets and mortar shells of various sizes – 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm – as well as artillery rockets (130 mm, 122 mm and 152 mm) and armored shells (115 mm and 125 mm).
Additionally, the source said there were nearly 10,000 bulletproof vests and helmets on board.
“Russia pays for the ammunition in cash and in doing so circumvents Western sanctions, ignoring sanctions against Iran,” the source added.
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Iran chooses the ‘wrong side of history’
Asked about the allegations, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK said he was not surprised that Iran was allegedly supplying ammunition to Russia and said he expected it there was more such support, but he urged the Islamic Republic to stop being on the “wrong side of history”. “.
Vadym Prystaiko told Sky News that Russia needed to seek help from what he called a “coalition of weak nations” such as Iran and North Korea, pointing to the difficulties it faced on the battlefield, using its own stockpiles of ammunition against Ukrainian troops. .
The level of artillery fire in Ukraine has not been seen since the Korean War, straining supply lines on both sides.
A Ukrainian brigadier claimed that the Russian army fired between 60,000 and 70,000 artillery shells a day.
US officials have set the maximum rate at 20,000 per day.
Ukraine and the United States both said the level had fallen due to falling stocks.
“They – supposedly the second largest army in the world – (are) under-resourced, which is a great achievement for the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the Ukrainian ambassador said in an interview at the London embassy.
The envoy said Western sanctions were impacting Russia’s ability to use its defense industry to replenish stocks quickly enough, but more work was needed to close other routes.
“We still have to actively pursue the Iranians and the rest of these regimes to stop supplying the Russians to fuel this war in Ukraine,” Prystaiko said.
General Sir Richard Barrons, a former senior British army officer, said an influx of 300,000 shells from Iran, while helpful for Russia, would not last long given the rate of fire. shot.
On the other hand, if China decided to put its vast stockpiles of ammunition at the disposal of President Putin’s war machine, it would be “very, very difficult for Ukraine”, he added.