Vladimir Putin’s decision to deploy unreliable Iranian drones in Ukraine proves Russia is struggling to bridge “significant capability gaps” when it comes to its ongoing military campaign, UK intelligence officials have said. The Russian President, who has launched missile strikes on major Ukrainian cities in the last two days which have resulted in the deaths of at least 26 people, is believed to be becoming increasingly frustrated in the face of a series of setbacks which have seen Ukraine regain large tracts of territory in the east of the country.
And he is apparently becoming increasingly reliant on military equipment sourced from outside Russia.
The UK Ministry of Defence tweeted: “Russia has deployed Iranian manufactured uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) since at least August 2022, including the one-way attack Shahed-136 variant.
“Russia included Shahed variants among the extensive wave of strikes it conducted on 10 October 2022.
“Previously, the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russia had launched a total of 86 Shahed-136s and claimed that 60 per cent had been destroyed in the air.
“These UAVs are slow and fly at low altitudes making lone aircraft easy to target using conventional air defences.”
The MoD acknowledged there was a possibility Russia has achieved “some success” by attacking with several UAVs at the same time.
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Speaking in Washington last month, Sacha Baker, the United States’ Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Department of Defense likewise suggested Putin’s use of so-called “kamikaze drones” from Iran was a sign of his “desperation”.
She explained: “We have seen some evidence already that the UAVs associated with the transfer from Iran have already experienced numerous failures on the battleground.”
“I think what it speaks to is not some kind of technological advance but actually a bit of desperation on the part of the Russians.
Ms Baker added: “We know their military is suffering from major supply shortages in Ukraine, in part because of sanctions and export controls.
“And it’s forcing them to rely on some unreliable countries for supplies and equipment.”
On October 5, dozens of firefighters rushed to douse blazes in a town near Kyiv after multiple strikes caused by what local officials said were Iranian-made loitering munitions.
Six drones hit a building overnight in Bila Tserkva, around 75 km (45 miles) south of the capital, said the governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba.
Ukraine has reported a spate of Russian attacks with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in the last three weeks, but the strike on Bila Tserkva was by far the closest to Kyiv.
Iran denies supplying the drones to Russia, while the Kremlin has not commented.
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the drones were launched from occupied areas in southern Ukraine, and that six further drones had been shot down before reaching their target.
Comparing the drone’s small size to an artillery shell, he added: “This is a new threat for all the defence forces of Ukraine, and we need to use all available means to try to counter it.”