Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Russia is preparing a prolonged air campaign using Iranian-made drones in a bid to exhaust the Ukrainian people.
In his nightly address to the nation, the Ukrainian president said that the attacks would be carried out using Iranian-made Shahed drones.
“We must ensure - and we will do everything for this - that this goal of terrorists fails like all the others,” Zelensky said.
“Now is the time when everyone involved in the protection of the sky should be especially attentive,” he added.
The statement came amid continuous shelling of the Ukrainian territories by the Russian forces. In two days, Ukraine’s Defense Forces shot down more than eighty Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones, also known as Shahed-136.
“Only two days have passed since the beginning of the year, and the number of Iranian drones shot down over Ukraine is already more than eighty,” Zelensky said.
Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia for use in the war. Iranian authorities initially denied providing Russia with drones but later acknowledged that Tehran had delivered the weapons and claimed that they were delivered before the war started. However, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Defence Ministry argued that parts of the Iranian kamikaze drones Russia is 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 in Ukraine.
In mid-December, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers adopted a further round of sanctions against Iran over its role in arming Russia with drones to support its military operations in Ukraine.
The drone, also called the Geranium-2 by Russia, has explosives in a warhead on its nose that is designed to loiter over a target until it is instructed to attack. With a wingspan of roughly 2.5 meters, the Shahed-136 can be hard to detect on radar. Russia may be using these drones rather than cruise missiles because they are relatively cheap - costing about $20,000 each.
The first time a Shahed-136 drone was reportedly utilized by Russia was on September 13 when it bombarded targets close to Kupiansk, a city in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine. Debris from the drones was found in Odesa and Mykolaiv. On October 25, Ukraine's armed forces claimed that they had shot down 223 Shahed-136 drones in the preceding 36 days, accounting for 85% of the total launched by Russia.
On the night of December 18, Russian troops attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones, 30 of which were destroyed by Ukraine's Defense Forces.