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EU Sanctions Iran over Protest Crackdown and Drone Sales to Russia

By Vusala Abbasova December 14, 2022

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, right, speaks with Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky at a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, December 12, 2022. / Virginia Mayo / AP

European Union foreign ministers have adopted a further round of sanctions against Iran over Tehran’s recent crackdowns on anti-government protests and its role in arming Russia with drones to support its military operations in Ukraine.

In a press release issued after the ministerial meeting on Monday, the European Council – the EU’s top decision-making body – condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia and sanctioned four Iranian individuals and four entities over their role in supplying the drones to Moscow.

“The European Union strongly condemns and considers unacceptable any type of Iran’s military support, including deliveries of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs - “drones”), to Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine,” the ministers said. “These weapons provided by Iran are being used indiscriminately by Russia against Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure causing horrendous destruction and human suffering.”

The blacklisted individuals and entities have their assets frozen, and neither EU citizens nor businesses are allowed to provide them with funding. The ban also envisages travel prohibition, which prevents them from entering or transiting through EU territories.

Iranian authorities initially denied providing Russia with drones but acknowledged last month that Tehran had delivered the weapons but claimed it had happened before the war started. However, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Defence Ministry argued that parts of the Iranian kamikaze drones Russia are using in its war against Ukraine were manufactured after the full-scale invasion began on 24 February.

The article published by the Washington Post in late August claims that Russia received at least two types of UAVs — Mohajer-6 and Shaheed on August 19. Russian forces have reportedly repainted and renamed the Iranian-made Shahed-136 and Mohajer-6 drones as Geran (Geranium). Russia has denied using Iranian-made drones on civilian targets in Ukraine.

Following Monday’s meeting, the EU ministers also added 20 individuals to the list of those subject to restrictive measures in the context of the existing Iran human rights sanctions regime. They also froze the assets of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, saying the media outlet was a “regime mouthpiece” that is “responsible for serious human rights violations in Iran.”

“The European Union strongly condemns the widespread, brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters, including women and children, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives, in clear breach of the fundamental principles enshrined in international law,” the press release reads. “The right to peaceful assembly must be ensured.”

Since September, Iran - a country of over 85 million people that is two-and-a-half times larger than the US state of Texas - has been rocked by countrywide protests. Protests in Iran were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian-Kurdish woman who was detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

As of December 7, Iran’s security forces killed at least 458 people in the crackdown on the protests, including 63 under the age of 18 and 29 women, according to the foreign-based Human Rights News Agency (HRANA). Authorities have also reported death sentences being issued against five protesters, bringing the total number to 11 people.

The anti-government protests, largely fueled by the middle and upper classes, pose one of the biggest threats to the country’s leaders. Protests of this scale have not been seen in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement brought millions to the street.