Iranian advisers killed whereas supporting Russians in Crimea, Kyiv says | Ukraine

Ukraine’s top security official has confirmed that Iranian military advisers have been killed in Crimea and warned that any other Iranians found on occupied Ukrainian territory to support the invasion of Moscow would also be targeted.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Iranians are present in Crimea to help Russia pilot the Shahed-136 armed drones supplied by the Tehran government, but did not say how many people who killed Ukraine.

According to reports in the Israeli press, ten people were killed in Ukrainian military strikes in occupied Crimea in October. Danilov made it clear that any further Iranian military presence would be targeted.

“You shouldn’t be where you shouldn’t be,” Danilov said in an interview in Kyiv. “They were on our territory. We didn’t invite them here, and if they are collaborating with terrorists and participating in the destruction of our nation, we must kill them.”

Wave after wave of Russian airstrikes, including drone and missile strikes, have targeted Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure since October, plunging it into blackouts as the winter cold descended on the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a UN Security Council meeting late Wednesday that the attacks were “a flagrant crime against humanity” and said Kyiv will table a resolution condemning “any form of energy terrorism”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday tried to blame Ukraine, saying it could “end all possible suffering of civilians” if it complied with “the demands of the Russian side”.

After initially denying the presence of Iranian drones in Ukraine, the Tehran government claimed it had delivered a “small number” of the unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia months before Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. She denies sending Iranian trainers to help the Russians fly the drones out of the occupied territory.

Kyiv has expressed skepticism about the Iranian version of events, and experts from both countries met at Tehran’s request to discuss the evidence collected by Ukraine.

“The Iranians keep insisting that they are not arms suppliers to the Russian Federation, but we need confirmation. Do we have that confirmation today? No we don’t,” said Danilov. “We understand that these things don’t fly without them [people] learn how to operate them, and Russians don’t have the brains to figure it out for themselves… In the modern world, you can’t hide anything. It’s only a matter of time before it gets released.”

It is unclear whether Iran has also supplied ballistic missiles to Russia.

“We’re trying to answer that question and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Danilov said. “But if it happens, it will tell us two things. First, Russia’s inability to produce its own missiles, at least not in the numbers that would allow it to continue a full-scale war. Second, if a country that has been under sanctions since 1979 is capable of producing such weapons, what kind of sanctions are we talking about? So it raises a big question about enforcement.”

The papers on the conference table in Danilov’s office were taped over with blank pages for security, and between them was a chess set with only a single black pawn advancing. When asked about it, Danilov said it was a metaphor for a world where the old rules no longer applied.

“It shows that everyone starts with black now,” he said. “Or what is black could also be white or maybe grey.”

Ukraine’s relations with Israel are an example of a gray area. There is a long list of Israeli military equipment that the Kiev government would like to acquire, but Israel has tried to avoid Moscow’s retaliation and tried to present itself as neutral.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s political comeback in this month’s elections further complicates the picture as he has a cordial relationship with Vladimir Putin, but Iran’s involvement on Russia’s side will also inform Israel’s calculations.

“Israel’s attitude towards this war is known and understandable,” said Danilov. “Once again I would like to point out that in the modern world you cannot hide anything, support or the lack of support. Are you pro-democratic or pro-authoritarian? Which side are you on?”

Danilov spoke after the liberation of the city of Kherson by Ukrainian forces and rumors of raids across the Dnipro River into the southern part of the Kherson region leading to Crimea. He was cautious about the state of the southern front, but pointed to previously reported operations behind Russian lines.

“Our armed forces are where they are needed. We have proven that more than once with our actions – when something exploded or banged in the occupied territories, when things collapse, bridges collapse, airfields burn and much more.”

He dismissed suggestions that the pace of Ukraine’s counter-offensive could be slowed by winter weather or the physical barrier of the Dnipro River, or by Western allies’ nervousness that the potential loss of Crimea could drive Putin to desperate, catastrophic measures.

“We must defend our country and rid it of terrorists at any time of the year. The season doesn’t matter,” said Danilov, adding that the Dnipro was “just another obstacle that we will overcome” and that “with the modern equipment and weapons, it’s just a task to be accomplished is applicable”.

He added: “Until all our territory is free, our army cannot stop and that includes Crimea and the other areas.”

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