The White House says the Iranian military has visited Crimea to support Russian operations targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine using drones.
John Kirby, communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said the presence of Iranian personnel is evidence of Tehran’s direct role in the conflict.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea are piloting Iranian UAVs to carry out attacks across Ukraine, including attacks on Kyiv,” Kirby said, referring to the unmanned aerial vehicles.
CNN previously reported that Iranian military personnel were sent to Crimea to train Russian forces.
“The Iranian military was on the ground in Crimea and supported those operations,” he said. “Russia has received dozens of UAVs so far and will likely continue to receive more shipments in the future.”
The US has previously said Russia was getting drones from Iran, but has not previously reported that Iranian personnel are on the ground helping to operate the weapons.
Kirby said there was a “relatively small number” of Iranian personnel on the ground.
“Tehran is now directly supplying weapons on the ground and in Ukraine that affect civilians and civilian infrastructure, kill civilians and destroy Ukrainian civilian infrastructure,” he said.
He said the Russians were unfamiliar with the use of drones, and needed the help of Iranian personnel to use them.
He said the US is now concerned that Russia is looking to acquire additional weapons from Iran, including surface-to-surface missiles. He said Iran and Russia continue to lie about their cooperation.
“They can lie to the world, but they certainly can’t hide the facts,” he said.