Pentagon officials said Thursday that Iranian troops are on the ground in Ukraine assisting Russian forces with drone strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and other targets, marking a major escalation in Tehran‘s involvement with the war and its close military partnership with the Kremlin.
The exact number of Iranian troops in Ukraine is unclear, but administration officials said they’re stationed in Crimea, which Russia forcibly annexed in 2014 but which remains officially a part of Ukraine.
“We do assess that Iranians have been on the ground in Ukraine to assist Russia with the drone operations there,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday. “And so, in terms of what that means, obviously again we continue to see Iran be complicit in terms of exporting terror, not only in the Middle East region but now also in Ukraine. I think that speaks for itself.”
Minutes before the Pentagon briefing, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that a “relatively small number” of Iranian troops are in Crimea and that they’re directly helping the Russians fly drone missions over Ukrainian cities.
“The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it’s the Russians who are doing the piloting,” Mr. Kirby said.
Despite Iranian and Russian denials, military analysts say Russia has increasingly relied on Iranian drones and other weapons as its own stockpiles of military equipment have dwindled after nearly eight months.
Source: Washington Times