Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shake hands following a meeting in Tehran in July. On Wednesday, British intelligence said Russia is increasingly relying on Iran and North Korea to buy weapons to continue its war in Ukraine. File Photo courtesy of Iranian Presidential Office | License Photo
Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Russian forces are increasingly sourcing weaponry from sanctioned Iran and North Korea as its own stockpiles dwindle amid its ongoing war with Ukraine, British intelligence said Wednesday.
The daily intelligence update from Britain's ministry of defense said Russia was "almost certainly increasingly" arming itself with weapons from the heavily sanctioned countries.
The analysts cited as proof reports from Kyiv officials that their military had on Tuesday shot down an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle in Kupiansk, where Ukrainian troops have made recent gains.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense had published photos of the downed UAV Shahed-136 on Tuesday, stating the relationship between Russia and Iran was "a perfect union of two despots."
The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 1,553 miles, according to the British analysts, who said similar Iran-manufactured systems have previously been deployed in the Middle East. They said it was the weapon used against oil tanker Mercer Street in the summer of 2021.
"The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggest there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory," the British intelligence update states.
The update follows the White House statement in July that it believes Russia was seeking weaponry from Iran as the tolls of the war began to mount.
"Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing July 12.
"Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs."
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills told the Security Council in New York that Russia was also turning to North Korea for weapons.
"Speaking of scrounging for weapons ... Moscow is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from the DPRK for use on the battlefield in Ukraine," Mills said Thursday, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Russia has denied the allegations, with its ambassador to the U.N., Vassily Nebenzia, disregarding them as "dogmatic" statements.
"I would like to ask them to either provide evidence or admit the dissemination of unreliable information within the walls of the Security Council," he said during last week's meeting. "I want to say right away that publications in the Western media, or meaningful comments, and unconvincing and non-assertive assumptions of U.S. officials do not count as such evidence."