- The US says it would prevent Iranian ammunition shipments to Russia
- Tehran has denied that drones are made in Iran
- Ukrainians endure a day of forced power outages
Kyiv/WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The United States said Iranian military trainers have been to Crimea to help Russian forces use Iranian-made drones to attack targets in Ukraine, adding to a war, which has exacerbated geopolitical tensions adds an alarming strand.
Ukrainian citizens have had to endure the first day of planned nationwide power outages since the war began eight months ago so that damaged or destroyed power plants could be repaired as winter approaches.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel stationed in Crimea are piloting Iranian UAVs and using them for kinetic strikes across Ukraine, including strikes against Kyiv in recent days,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement daily briefing with reporters on unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.
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“We understand that … Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” Price said. He said “we have credible information,” but he offered no evidence.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has used the southern peninsula to train soldiers and reopen Soviet-era military bases as part of its neighbor’s invasion.
There was no immediate public response from Tehran to the US allegations, but Iran has denied that the drones were made in Iran. Russia has also denied the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine.
Russia’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Washington will use all means to “detect, deter and confront” Iranian ammunition supplies to Russia, including further sanctions, while also considering air defenses for Ukraine.
European Union members have agreed on new measures against Iran, the bloc said, while Britain imposed sanctions on senior military officials and a company involved in the delivery of Iranian drones to Moscow.
Russia and Iran have also been embroiled in Syria’s 11-year civil war and shared support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Iran and Russia, they can lie to the world, but they certainly cannot hide the facts, and the fact is that Tehran is now directly involved on the ground,” Kirby said without giving details.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that he had held extensive talks with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid over a request for air and missile defense systems and technology. Lapid’s office said the Israeli leader had expressed “deep concern” about the military link between Iran and Russia.
BLACKOUTS IN UKRAINE
People across Ukraine have been urged to use less electricity as the government enforced power cuts between 7am and 11pm on Thursday.
The first such restrictions since Russia’s February 24 invasion included power outages in some areas and followed a barrage of Russian attacks that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said hit a third of all power plants.
“Several weeks will be needed to restore the reliability of our energy system,” said Volodymyr Kudritskiy, CEO of the national energy company Ukrenergo.
That estimate is conditional on an end to the mass shelling, he said.
The north-eastern Sumy region was without water and some grocery stores in the capital Kyiv reported brisk sales of bottled water.
“There is a lot of anger towards the Russian leaders and the Russian people,” said Kyiv-based Mikhail Cholovnenko.
“But we are ready for failures. We have candles, charged power banks. Ukraine must win.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspecting a training ground for mobilized troops in Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, was shown firing a sniper rifle in footage apparently intended to show his support for soldiers en route to Ukraine.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it is once again targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, a strategy it has pursued since this month’s appointment of Sergei Surovikin – dubbed “General Armageddon” by Russian media – to command what Russia calls its “military special operation.” “ calls, has intensified Ukraine.
In video speeches on Thursday, Zelenskyy, without presenting any evidence, accused Russia of preparing a large-scale disaster in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine has information that Russian forces have mined the dam and units of the Kakhovska hydroelectric power station, Zelenskyy claimed, adding that 80 settlements, including the city of Kherson, could be flooded quickly.
The Ukrainian military reported fierce fighting in Beryslav District as its forces press ahead with their advance on the city of Kherson, the only regional capital that Russian forces have captured. Control of Kherson gives Russia a land route to Crimea and the mouth of the Dnipro River, bisecting Ukraine.
Four people were killed when Ukrainian rocket artillery hit a ferry crossing in the city of Kherson late Thursday, the Moscow-appointed deputy regional governor said. Authorities in the region, which Russia declared annexed last month, said this week they plan to evacuate up to 60,000 people over the next six days.
In the eastern industrial region of Donbass, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, a Ukrainian counter-offensive aimed at retaking the cities of Svatovo and Kreminna, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV.
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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Grant McCool & Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Robert Birsel
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