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US sanctions target Russia’s production of Iranian attack drones

On the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration has rolled out new measures meant to counter Russia’s drone partnership with Iran.
Local residents inspect damages outside an apartment building after the overnight Russian drones attack in Kharkiv, Dec. 31, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv said on Dec. 31, 2023, it destroyed 21 of 49 Iranian-made "Shahed" drones fired by Russia overnight, adding that six guided missiles had also targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

WASHINGTON — In an effort to further squeeze the Kremlin’s war machine, the United States has sanctioned a network it says is working to mass produce Iranian-designed attack drones at a newly established facility in Russia. 

Since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has tried to disrupt Iran’s shipments of Shahed suicide drones used by Russia to attack Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine. The newest sanctions build on those efforts, for the first time targeting Russia's ability to produce its own version of those drones. 

The Biden administration said in June that Iran was sending materials to help assemble the drones at a plant under construction in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, some 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Moscow. The administration published satellite imagery of the site located inside the Alabuga special economic zone, which it said was likely to be operational by early 2024.

Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions on Alabuga, which US officials say is ramping up production to build thousands of armed drones by 2025 under a contract with the Russian military. Alabuga is both assembling the drone parts that are shipped from Iran and increasing its own domestic production capability, according to Treasury.

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