Russia repeatedly bombs Odesa using Iran-made kamikaze drones

The port city of Odesa in southern Ukraine was bombed by Russia using loitering munitions made in Iran. 

The first air raid took place on September 23, 2022. At least eight Shahed-136 kamikaze drones were used to target Odesa’s harbor. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense claims that six were intercepted, but two destroyed an administrative building. A civilian was killed in the attack. 

On September 25, 2022, more Iranian-made drones fell on the city, according to Odesa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov. One loitering munition was intercepted, but an administrative building in central Odesa was hit three times. No casualties were reported. 

Finally, on September 26, 2022, Ukraine’s Operational Command “South” reported that the city was targeted by suicide drones, presumably of the same type, during the night.  

“A drone destroyed by air defense forces. Two hit military infrastructure,” the command detailed. “Following a large-scale fire and the detonation of ammunition, the evacuation of civilians was organized. Preliminarily, there are no victims.” 

In addition to the Shahed-136s, the Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down and recovered a Mohajer-6, a larger drone of Iranian design employed by the Russians. This observation unmanned aircraft, primarily used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, can also carry precision-guided munitions using several hardpoints. 

Tehran-Kyiv diplomatic row 

Following reports of the first air raid, the Ukrainian authorities announced that they would downgrade diplomatic relations with Tehran. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy defined Iran’s supply of loitering munition to Russia as “a collaboration with evil”. 

“In response to such a hostile act, the Ukrainian side has decided to deprive the Iranian Ambassador to Ukraine of his accreditation and to significantly reduce the number of diplomatic staff at the Iranian Embassy in Kyiv,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated. 

The next day, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said the claims that Iran was supplying drones to Russia were unfounded, and that “proportional action” would be taken following Ukraine’s decision. 

Unofficial cooperation between Iran and Russia 

While Iranian authorities deny it, several reports of Iranian-made loitering munitions being used by Russia in Ukraine have been circulating. 

In early July 2022, US intelligence officials claimed that the two countries were negotiating deliveries amid reports that Russia is running out of high-precision weapons. Consequently, additional sanctions were imposed on several Iranian companies suspected of being involved in the deal. 

In September 2022, the first photographs of what appears to be the tail section of a Shahed-136 loitering munition were shared online. The wreckage is marked with “M214 Geran-2,” an unseen designation that may be the name by the Russia armed forces for the Iranian loitering munition. 

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