US says Iran is helping Russia build drone factory

US intelligence officials say Iran and Russia continue to strengthen their military cooperation and arms assistance.

The United States has accused the Iranian government of helping Russia build a drone factory near Moscow in an escalation of their defense cooperation.

In a statement Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby cited U.S. intelligence findings indicating that Iran provided material support for the plant, which could be operational by the start of the year. next year.

US officials have also twice denied claims that Iran sent hundreds of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to Russia for use in Ukraine, where a full-scale invasion was launched in 2022.

“Russia has used Iranian drones in recent weeks to strike Kiev and terrorize the Ukrainian population, and the Russian-Iranian military partnership appears to be strengthening,” Kirby said in a statement on Friday.

“We are also concerned that Russia is collaborating with Iran to produce Iranian UAVs inside Russia.”

The administration of US President Joe Biden, the most important supporter of Ukraine, had previously stated that Iran and Russia are discussing the possibility of establishing a drone assembly line inside Russia, reports Al Jazeera.

Kirby said US intelligence officials now believe the production plant is being set up in the Alabuga special economic zone, several hundred kilometers east of Moscow.

But Russia has denied using Iranian-made drones in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Iran has admitted sending drones to Russia, but says it did so before Russia’s widely condemned February 2022 invasion.

However, the US has accused Iran of complicity in the Russian invasion, which has killed thousands and displaced nearly 14 million people, according to the UN.

On Friday, Kirby said Iran continued to send drones to Russia, sending them across the Caspian Sea to the Russian port of Makhachkala. The Biden administration has previously sanctioned Iranian defense firms involved in drone production.

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