Four Russian military officers are alleged to have received specialist training in the operation of attack drones at an Iranian base last August, under the cover of an army games competition, Ukrainian media outlets reported on Thursday.
The four Russians — who were all named as part of an independent investigation conducted by Ukrainian outlets Slidstvo and OurMoney — traveled to Iran last August to participate in a “falcon hunting” competition, in which drones are used to simulate the training, hunting and breeding of birds of prey. As well as the Russian contingent, competitors came from the militaries of Venezuela, Armenia, Belarus and Zimbabwe, all of which retain close ties with both Moscow and Tehran.
The competition was held at the Kashan military base, near the city of Isfahan. In Sept. 2021, then Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that the base had become “a key point from which Iranian aerial terrorism is exported to the region.”
According to the investigation, a Russian delegation visited Kashan on at least two occasions prior to the competition, where their Iranian hosts demonstrated the Shahed drones that have been used to devastating effect against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure since last summer. Around the same time, US officials expressed concern that Iran was preparing to supply Russia with the drones. After the competition ended, the four Russian officers remained for further training.
Ukrainian defense officials say that Iran has so far supplied Russia with nearly 2,000 drones, more than 500 of which have been destroyed by the country’s air defenses since September, Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force, said on Tuesday.