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Iranians in Crimea ‘directly engaged’ in helping Russia use drones to attack Ukraine, White House says

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian personnel are “directly engaged on the ground” in Russian-occupied Crimea helping Moscow’s forces conduct attacks on Ukraine with Iranian-made drones, the White House said on October 20.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Iran has sent a “relatively small number” of Iranians to Crimea to work as trainers and in tech support, while Russians are piloting the drones.

“Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground, and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” he said.

“The United States is going to pursue all means to expose, deter, and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions against the Ukrainian people.”

He said the United States would also continue to “vigorously enforce all U.S. sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arms trade.”

There was no immediate reaction to the U.S. allegations from Tehran, which previously denied selling munitions to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in July, and the United States said at the time that Russia was looking to purchase Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles to use in its war against Ukraine.

Kirby indicated the United States currently sees no need to continue trying to negotiate a revival of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

“We are way far apart with the Iranians in terms of a return to the deal, so we are simply not focused on that right now,” Kirby said.

U.S. President Joe Biden had sought a return to the deal to provide international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions against Tehran. Talks on reviving the deal, abandoned in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump, have been stalled for months.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been further heightened by Tehran’s crackdown on protests following the death in September of a 22-year-old woman who was arrested for violating Iran’s strict dress code requiring women to wear hijabs. Biden has condemned the crackdown.