Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Intelligence Directorate, said in an interview with the New York Times that Russia had acquired 1,700 Shahed kamikaze drones from Iran.
With improvements in Ukrainian air defense, most of the drones are shot down before reaching the targets, Budanov said, adding that Russian has already used about 540 of the drones against Ukraine.
So far, Iran has declined to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia.
“Iran is not hurrying to do this, for understandable reasons, because as soon as Russia fires the first missiles, the sanctions pressure will grow” on Iran, Budanov said.
Russia has been attacking Ukraine with Iranian-made kamikaze drones since September, targeting civilians and destroying energy infrastructure across the country.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Dec. 19 that Russia had received a new batch of 250 Iranian Shahed-136 drones.
In November, Ukraine-based nonprofit StateWatch and the civil society group Independent Anti-Corruption Commission published an investigation finding that Iranian-made drones, except for the engine, consist entirely of foreign-made parts. Over 30 EU and U.S. companies were identified among those whose parts have been used to manufacture these drones.
According to CNN, the U.S. has established a task force to investigate how Western technology, including U.S. microelectronics, ended up in Iranian-made kamikaze drones that Russia has been using to attack Ukraine.
The U.S., U.K., EU, and Canada have imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies involved in supplying Russia with drones.