Iranian advisers killed helping Russians in Crimea, says Kyiv | Ukraine

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

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

Reports in Israeli press in October said 10 were killed due to Ukrainian military strikes in occupied Crimea. 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 Kiev. “They were on our territory. We did not invite them here, and if they collaborate with terrorists and participate in the destruction of our nation, we must kill them.”

Since October, wave after wave of Russian airstrikes, including drone and missile strikes, have targeted Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure, throwing it into blackouts as the winter chill begins to descend across the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a UN Security Council meeting late Wednesday that the attacks were “a flagrant crime against humanity” and said Kyiv would table a resolution condemning “any form of energy terrorism”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tried to blame Ukraine on Thursday, saying it could “bring an end to all possible suffering for the civilian population” if it met “the demands of the Russian side”.

After initially denying the presence of Iranian drones in Ukraine, Tehran’s government has claimed that it had delivered a “small number” of the drones to Russia months before Vladimir Putin launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine in February. It refuses to send Iranian trainers to help Russians fly the drones from occupied territory.

Kiev has expressed skepticism on Iran’s version of events, and experts from both countries have met at Tehran’s request to discuss evidence collected by Ukraine.

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

He said it was unclear whether Iran had also supplied ballistic missiles to Russia.

“We are trying to answer this question and we will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen,” Danilov said. “But if it does, it will tell us two things. First, that Russia has no ability to manufacture its own missiles, at least in the numbers that would allow it to continue a large-scale war. Second , if a country that has been under sanctions since 1979 has an ability to produce 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 covered with blank pages for security reasons, and among them sat a chess set with only a single black pawn. Asked about it, Danilov said it was a metaphor for a world where the old rules no longer applied.

“It shows that everyone is now starting with black,” he said. “Or what is black can also be white or maybe gray.”

Ukraine’s relationship with Israel is 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 portray itself as neutral.

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

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

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

“Our armed forces are wherever they are needed. We proved that more than once with our actions – when something is blown up in the occupied territories or something broke, when things break, bridges fall, airfields burner and much more.”

He shrugged off suggestions that the pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive could be slowed by winter weather or the Dnipro’s physical barrier, or nervousness among Western allies that the potential loss of Crimea would drive Putin to desperate, catastrophic measures.

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

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

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