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US sanctions target production, transfer of Iranian drones to Russia

The US Treasury Department targeted the Iranian manufacturer of the Shahed-series drones used in recent Russian attacks in Kyiv, Odesa and the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.
Iranians walk past Iran's Shahed 129 drone displayed during celebrations in Tehran to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Feb. 11, 2016.

The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new sanctions targeting firms involved in the production or transfer of Iranian drones to Russia for use in attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, which it accused of manufacturing the drones, including the single-use Shahed-136 drones that struck civilian targets in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities in mid-October.

Also designated were two United Arab Emirates-based air transportation firms accused of facilitating the drone shipment. OFAC described one of the firms, i Jet Global DMCC, as having allegedly used its Syria branch to assist US-sanctioned Syrian airline Cham Wings in facilitating the transport of Syrian fighters to Russia.

Some nine months into its war in Ukraine, Russia has turned to cheap Iranian-manufactured drones as its own arsenal of advanced weaponry has dwindled. In September, the Treasury Department sanctioned an Iranian air transportation service provider and three companies for their alleged involvement in the drones’ production and shipment to Russia. 

Despite ample evidence, Iran has denied Western allegations that it is supplying Russia with drones to be used in Ukraine. However, earlier this month Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian acknowledged his country sent “a limited number of drones to Russia” in the months before the February invasion.

In a further sign of growing Russia-Iran cooperation, the US government confirmed last month that Iranian military trainers helped the Russian drone pilots in occupied Crimea conduct strikes against Ukrainian positions.

On Tuesday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described the latest US sanctions as part of a larger effort to deny Russia the equipment it needs to continue its war.

“As we have demonstrated repeatedly, the United States is determined to sanction people and companies, no matter where they are located, that support Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” Yellen said in a statement.

“Today’s action exposes and holds accountable companies and individuals that have enabled Russia’s use of Iranian-built UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to brutalize Ukrainian civilians,” Yellen said. 

Separately on Tuesday, the State Department designated the previously sanctioned Kremlin-linked paramilitary group Wagner, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Force and Qods Aviation Industries under Executive Order 14024, which authorizes sanctions on those who operate in the technology, defense and other related sectors of the Russian economy. 

Along with the redesignation of Wagner, the Treasury also designated two individuals — Abbas Djuma and Tigran Khristoforovich Srabionov — for allegedly facilitating Wagner’s acquisition of drones from Iran.

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