Western components found in Iranian-made drones used by Russian army, expert warns
The Iranian-made drones used by the Russian army to attack Ukraine’s vital infrastructure and plunge the war-torn country into darkness consist “almost entirely” of components manufactured by Europe-based companies, the United States and Asia, according to a report.
The results published by Conflict Arms Researcha UK-based organization that tracks the use of illegal arms in conflicts, are challenging the long-established regime of United Nations sanctions against Iran and putting further pressure on the European Union and its allies to close loopholes.
Through several trips to Ukraine, the Conflict Armament Research Team was able to collect and analyze two models of so-called “kamikaze” drones – the Shahed-131 and the Shahed-136 – which self-destruct once they hit their target, along with the Mohajer -6, a tactical and combat drone.
The three UAVs shared several similarities to other Iranian-made drones previously documented in the Middle East between 2017 and 2022, leading leading investigators to conclude that the drones used by Russia in the war against Ukraine assembled in Iran.
Tehran is one of the few allies Moscow has left on the global stage.
As a new spate of drone attacks Hit KyivEuronews spoke to Damien Spleeters, Deputy Director of Operations at Conflict Armament Research, to find out how these highly sensitive Western-origin components could have entered Iran.
“We found components (in the drones) from different European countries,” Spleeters said, referring to satellite navigation systems and motors.
“Normally, manufacturers very often have very little transparency and control over where their products end up. Therefore, we are trying to identify and triangulate distribution channels that could be problematic in the sense that they were used by Russia or Iran to acquire these components.”
Spleeters explained that some of the western components found in Iranian-made drones should be monitored under the current sanctions, but others were simple commercial items that could be freely acquired.
“Not everything is controllable. It would be unrealistic to think that we can control every single model of components that can be used in drones or other weapons,” the analyst said.
“But certainly traceability, record keeping and transparency in the supply chain can be improved. That can lead to better due diligence efforts.”
Russia also took advantage of this availability and began stockpiling material prior to the invasion when trade with Europe and the US was largely unhindered.
It is unclear how long this stock will last. Some of the recent Russian-built cruise missiles used to attack Kyiv contained Western components, Spleeters warned.
“I don’t think we should delude ourselves: (Russia) knew sanctions were coming, and they knew it might be harder to get the materials they need to keep building weapons,” he said he.
“But these supplies are finite. They are not made to run forever.”
With no end in sight to the Ukraine war, the European Union and its partners are trying to close loopholes and tighten sanctions against the Kremlin.
The latest package from Brussels includes an export ban on EU-made drones destined for Russia, Iran or any other country suspected of oiling Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
“It is crucial that sanctions and sanction mechanisms are based on evidence. That said, if you want to effectively prevent Russia from acquiring the components it needs to make weapons, you first need to know what components they actually use, what components they still need to make those weapons, and how they managed to do it to acquire them,” Spleeters told Euronews.
“And once you have that information, it becomes a little bit easier to enforce control and prevent Russia from acquiring those components.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Iranian-made drones.