Ukraine’s military announced on Tuesday for the first time that it had shot down an Iranian suicide drone used by Russia on the battlefield, signaling deepening ties between Moscow and Tehran, as Tehran’s shattered nuclear deal with world powers hangs in the balance.
And US intelligence publicly warned again in July that Tehran was planning to send hundreds of drones carrying bombs to Russia to help it in its war on Ukraine. According to the Associated Press.
A Ukrainian military official, in addition to a website loyal to the Ukrainian army, published pictures of the wreckage of the unmanned aircraft, which resembled the shape of a triangle, and was known as “Witness”.
Spotted Iran striker UAVs in Kubyansk region. Presumably used by Russian forces. pic.twitter.com/xBVtuifvVS
— Максим (@kms_d4k) September 13, 2022
The military official and the website said that Ukrainian forces shot down the drone near Kobyansk amid the Kyiv attack that breached Russian lines around Kharkiv on the Eastern Front.
Pictures indicate that Ukrainian forces shot down the Shahed drone, which did not explode on impact, and it was written “M214 Geran-2”, a strange name for well-known Russian weapons, according to the Associated Press.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the agency.
Iran has multiple copies of the Shahid, which flew over a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, was used by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, attacked oil depots in Saudi Arabia, and allegedly killed two sailors aboard an oil tanker off Oman in 2021.
The stele is believed to be triangular in shape and has a range of about 2,000 km, although Iran has provided few details about it.
Experts say that these drones, which carry bombs, fly to a specific destination, and are likely to be programmed before their flight, and either explode in the air above the target or upon collision with it.
Iran has moved closer to Russia as it faces crushing sanctions over the collapse of the nuclear deal in 2018 after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord.
Negotiations on the deal, which saw Iran restrict uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, appear to have once again reached a dead end.
Relations between Ukraine and Iran are also strained due to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020, killing all 176 people on board.
Russia’s trump card
On the other hand, US leaders, including US President Joe Biden, are careful not to declare a premature victory after a Ukrainian attack forced Russian forces into a chaotic retreat in the north.
Although Ukraine’s gains were widely celebrated over the weekend, US officials know that Russian President Vladimir Putin still has forces and resources to draw from, and his forces still control large swathes of the east and south.
Philip Breedlove, a retired US Air Force general who was the supreme commander of NATO from 2013 to 2016, said victory should not be celebrated prematurely because “Russia still has cards to play. And I think if the West equips Ukraine properly, they will be able to to hold on to their gains in the East and the North.
Breedlove noted that despite the recent battle losses, Putin still had “a lot of tanks, a lot of trucks, a lot of people.”
He warned that winter could bring the toughest challenges, and Putin’s moves to shut down gas supplies to Europe, which are expected to drive up prices, are likely to turn public opinion against governments.
He continued, “Although Putin’s army has been battered on the military front, it has a leverage that it can use, and it is likely to be reflected in how strong and cohesive Europe is during the winter.”
“I think Putin is desperately trying to hold on to winter because his great hope now is to separate the European people from their political leadership,” he added.
Ukrainian forces continued to put relentless pressure on the withdrawing Russian forces, on Tuesday, as they sought to maintain their sudden momentum that led to significant gains on the ground.
New yellow and blue flags fluttered from the tops of the remaining buildings in the partially destroyed towns around Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, as Ukrainian soldiers inspected charred Russian tanks that departed along the way.
“From the beginning of September until today, our soldiers have already liberated more than 6000 square kilometers of the territory of Ukraine – in the east and south. The movements of our troops continue,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly speech on Monday evening.
Tank army “decays”
British intelligence said one of Moscow’s main forces, the 1st Guards Tank Army, had been “severely degraded” during the invasion and that “the Russian conventional force designed to counter NATO is so weak it will likely take Russia years to rebuild this capability”.
But the retreat did not prevent Russia from bombing Ukrainian positions. “The city of Lozova in the Kharkiv region was bombed, killing three people and wounding nine,” Lozova Governor Ole Sinihopov said early Tuesday.
Nikopol Governor Valentin Resnichenko said the Nikopol region, which overlooks the Dnipro River and is near the Zaporizhia station, was bombed six times during the night but no casualties were immediately reported. The constant bombing left Europe’s largest nuclear facility in a critical position.
Kiev accused of torturing civilians
The Russian army confirmed that it was launching “intense strikes” on Ukrainian forces on all fronts, on Tuesday, while the Kremlin accused Kyiv of torturing and ill-treating civilians in areas that Ukrainian forces regained control over in recent days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in its daily report that “the Russian air, ballistic and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes on units of the Ukrainian armed forces in all areas of operation.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the Ukrainian forces of carrying out acts of “torture” and “punitive measures” against residents in areas recaptured by Ukrainian forces in recent days.
For his part, Zelensky specifically criticized Russia for targeting energy infrastructure in its attacks over the past days. “Hundreds and thousands of Ukrainians found themselves in the dark – without electricity. Houses, hospitals, schools, common infrastructure … sites that had absolutely nothing to do with the infrastructure of our country’s armed forces,” he said.
He added that this “can only indicate one thing. This is a sign of the desperation of those who made this war. This was their reaction to the defeat of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region. They can do nothing for our heroes on the battlefield.”
Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian forces were surrendering en masse. A Ukrainian presidential adviser said there were too many prisoners of war, which was running out of space.
The Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the withdrawal in a map that showed its forces had retreated along a narrow patch of land on the border with Russia – a tacit acknowledgment of significant Ukrainian gains.
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