“During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” a US official told CNN. The official said the intelligence about the training has recently been declassified.
The Ukrainian military has primarily been deploying Turkish-built Bayraktar UAVs to destroy Russian command posts, tanks and surface-to-air missile systems, while the Russians have been using homemade Orlan-10 drones for reconnaissance and electronic warfare.
But the Russians have been struggling to replenish their supply, leading them to turn to Iran for the equipment, the US believes. US officials have also argued that the growing relationship between Iran and Russia exemplifies why the US needs to maintain its presence and influence in the Middle East.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has pleaded with the US to provide more powerful armed drones like the Gray Eagle, but the US has been reluctant to provide them for fear that Russia could view it as overly escalatory.