© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police officers shoot at a drone during a Russian drone strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine October 17, 2022. REUTERS/Vadim S
(Fixes typo in headline)
By Stefaniia Bern
KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine is taking down 85% of Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones fired by Russia but needs its allies’ support to prevent Tehran selling Moscow ballistic missiles, an air force spokesperson said on Friday.
Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities and cities since Oct. 10, using missiles and what Kyiv says are Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones.
Air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said Ukraine’s air defences were proving increasingly effective against the drones but indicated they were less effective against missiles.
“If we take the last two weeks and the results in taking down drones, our air defence is 85% effective,” Ihnat told a briefing. “Now we’ve learned to recognise them and shoot them down more effectively.”
Tehran denies supplying Shahed-136 drones to Moscow and the Kremlin denies its forces have used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine. But two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface to surface missiles, in addition to more drones.
“Ukraine currently doesn’t have effective air defence systems against ballistic missiles. Iran will likely supply those (to Russia), unless the world finds a way to stop it,” Ihnat said.
The United States has dismissed Iran’s denial that it has sold the drones to Moscow and said Iranian military trainers are in annexed Crimea helping Russian forces operate the drones.
Ihnat said this was a matter for Ukrainian and Western intelligence but added: “It’s obvious they are there, for me personally. They are teaching and maybe even participating in military action.”
Ukraine has been aided by the delivery of sophisticated air defence systems from allies including the first of four IRIS-T air defence systems from Germany.
“One of those systems is already working in Ukraine. The only thing is we obviously can’t say where it is and how it works,” Ihnat said. “Iris had shown itself to be very useful, and its capability has been proven under military conditions.”