TEHRAN — Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said Monday that Kyiv's claims that Tehran is supplying Russia with Iranian drones to be used in its war on Ukraine are "baseless."
"At the technical meeting, the Ukrainian side did not present any evidence suggesting Russia's use of Iranian drones in its war on that country," Ashtiani declared in reference to a meeting between Iranian and Ukrainian military experts in November. He noted that Ukrainian representatives have refrained from providing such proof.
The general downplayed Kyiv's assertions as "unimportant" and not deserving investigation "because most of those statements are based on rumors."
Iran has been repeatedly dismissive of reported drone supplies but in the meantime has offered seemingly contradictory and ambiguous arguments. While Tehran points out its military ties with Moscow date back to well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the defense minister added that there has been "no cooperation with regard to the use of Iranian drones in the Ukraine war."
Over the past two months, Western states have attempted to blow the whistle on Iranian drone shipments to Russia. They have pressed the United Nations to probe the issue and take action against Tehran's possible violations of Security Council Resolution 2231, which, based on their interpretation, bars the Islamic Republic from supplying combat drones to other nations, an argument that Tehran has rejected.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian described the drone saga as baseless but has also admitted that Iran "sold Russia some drones months before the start of the Ukraine war."
However, despite the diplomatic denials, Iranian hard-liners have not hidden their admiration for Iranian drones reportedly used in Ukraine and how they have "frightened" the United States. To them, the drones are a symbol of the Iranian military's might. And in an October speech, even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei obliquely defended the shipments.
Opponents at home, nonetheless, accuse the government of imprudence at a moment when Moscow is deliberately "dragging" Tehran into the Ukraine war to alleviate the Western pressure on its shoulders by sharing it with Tehran.
In another trending debate in Iran, a reported uptick in those deliveries is explained by the Islamic Republic's hopes that Russia will help suppress public protests by Iranians that have been going on for nearly three months.
Those assertions have been backed by a recent visit by the chief of Russia's National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, to Tehran.
With no sign of the protests fizzling out and calls for overthrowing the ruling establishment growing louder, Iranian authorities are believed to have requested Russian advice and advanced riot equipment as the unrest continues.