Iran is sending materials to Russia to help Moscow build a drone manufacturing plant that could be operational next year, as part of a “deepened” military partnership between the two countries, Iran said on Friday. Biden administration. Officials also said Tehran supplied hundreds of armed drones to Russia last month for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Warning of growing defense ties between Iran and Russia, the Biden administration released a satellite photo of what it believes to be the planned location of a drone production plant in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.
The White House also outlined how Iranian-made drones are transported to Russia, posting a graphic to illustrate the route. The drones are “shipped across the Caspian Sea, from Amirabad, Iran, to Makhachkala, Russia, and then used operationally by Russian forces against Ukraine,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the Security Council. National Security Department of the White House, in a statement.
“In May, Russia received hundreds of one-way attack drones, as well as equipment related to drone production, from Iran,” Kirby added, using a military acronym for drones, air vehicles unmanned.
Kirby said Russia has used Iranian drones in recent weeks to strike kyiv, which has seen a surge in airstrikes. He said Moscow was “offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics and air defense” in return for Iran supplying Russia with suicide bombers.
Iran has denied supplying Russia with drones for the war in Ukraine, but has announced plans to boost defense cooperation with Moscow, including buying Russian fighter jets and other military equipment. The Russian Embassy in Washington and the Iranian Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In March, Iran announced a deal to buy Russian Su-35 fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of military aircraft. Iran has also expressed interest in buying Russian attack helicopters, radars and YAK-130 combat training aircraft.
“All in all, Iran is seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Russia,” Kirby said, calling the terms “a large-scale defense partnership that is detrimental to Ukraine, the neighbors of Iran and the international community”.
The statement was the latest example of the Biden administration releasing intelligence information publicly in an attempt to undermine the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States imposed a series of sanctions on organizations or individuals allegedly involved in the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia and implemented export controls to try to prevent Russia from obtaining the electronic components necessary for the operation of Iranian drones.
The administration also issued an advisory to “help governments and companies put measures in place to ensure they are not inadvertently contributing to Iran’s drone program.” Officials also said the United States was working to provide Ukraine with the air defense systems needed to counter Russian drone and missile attacks.
Henry Rome, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank, said Iran’s supply of drones to Russia presents “a difficult problem for Western powers, given the direct air and sea routes between Iran and Russia.
“We can try to expose and deter this activity, and in the long run complicate the relationship by limiting the flow of technology,” Rome said. “But these measures may take time to bear fruit.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com