JEDDAH: Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday they had shot down an Iranian-made “suicide” drone during their counteroffensive against Russian forces in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
The easily identifiable delta-winged Shahed-136 drone was brought down near the town of Kupiansk as Russian troops retreated toward the border. It failed to detonate on impact, as it is designed to do.
Iran previously denied a US intelligence report in July that it planned to send hundreds of the bomb-carrying drones to Russia for use in the war on Ukraine. However, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boasted this week about its role in arming some of the world’s leading powers.
Iran has several versions of the Shahed drone, which has a range of about 2,000 kilometers. It is used by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, has attacked oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, killed two sailors aboard an oil tanker off Oman in 2021, and overflew a US aircraft carrier in the Arabian Gulf.
Experts refer to such bomb-carrying drones as “loitering munitions.” They fly to a destination programmed before take-off and detonate either in the air over the target or on impact.
Iran has drawn closer to Russia as it faces crippling US economic sanctions over the collapse in 2018 of the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. Negotiations to revive the agreement are deadlocked.
Ukraine and Iran also have tense relations, after the Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet in 2020, killing all 176 people on board.
On the battlefield on Tuesday, Ukraine drove Russian forces further back in the northeast and vowed to liberate all of its territory.
Since Moscow abandoned its Kharkiv bastion on Saturday in Russia’s worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of towns in a stunning shift in battleground momentum.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said 150,000 people had been liberated from Russian rule in the area. “The aim is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond — all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” she said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the West must speed up deliveries of weapons systems, and urged Ukraine’s allies to “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terror.”
Western countries have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons that Kyiv says have helped limit Moscow’s territorial gains. Russian forces control about a fifth of the country in the south and east, but Ukraine is now on the offensive in both areas.