Vladimir Putin’s forces are being forced to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses in Ukraine bite, defence experts believe.
British defence intelligence analysts think that Moscow is “increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states” as its own stockpiles are depleted.
An update published by the UK’s Ministry of Defence pointed to claims that Ukrainian forces had shot down an Iranian-made drone as evidence of Moscow’s use of systems sourced from Tehran.
Ukraine claimed it shot down the drone near Kupiansk as part of the offensive that has punched through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front.
The image suggested the Shahed “suicide drone” had been shot down by Ukrainian forces and had not detonated on impact as designed, though little information was released by the authorities in Kyiv.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 14 September 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/peo4DTIuvL
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 14, 2022
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “Russia has highly likely deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in Ukraine for the first time.
“On September 13 2022, Ukrainian officials reported that their forces had shot down a Shahed-136 UAV near Kupiansk, in the area of Ukraine’s successful ongoing offensive.
“The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 2,500 kilometres.
“Similar Iranian-manufactured systems have likely been used in attacks in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in July 2021.”
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) September 13, 2022
Russian forces have sustained heavy losses since the invasion of Ukraine began in February, and sanctions have restricted access to key components for its weapons systems.
The MoD update said: “Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle.
“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also underlined the impact of sanctions on Russia’s defence industry.
“The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware, because they ran out of semiconductors,” she said.
“Russia’s industry is in tatters.”