Russia Having to Source Weapons From Other Countries as Stocks Dwindle—U.K.

Russian forces are using weapons sourced from pariah states Iran and North Korea as their own arms supplies dwindle amid Ukraine's counteroffensive and the impact of sanctions, British defense officials have said.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense [MOD] said that Russia has "highly likely" used Iranian drones in Ukraine for the first time, citing Ukrainian officials who reported that Kyiv's forces shot down a Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] near the front line on Tuesday.

This pointed to 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," defense officials said.

The drone that was hit had a reported range of over 1,600 miles. Similar UAVs made by Iran are likely to have been used in operations in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT Mercer Street, which was attacked off the coast of Oman on July 29, 2021, the assessment said.

"Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle," defense officials added.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for a response to Wednesday's daily assessment by the British MOD, which tends to emphasize Ukrainian gains and Russian losses.

Ukraine's armed forces said on Wednesday they had shot down 908 enemy drones since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, although this figure is not independently verified.

Cyclist in Kharkiv,
A cyclist rides past a building partially destroyed by a missile strike in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 13, 2022. The British Ministry of Defense has said that Russia has used Iranian drones during the war in Ukraine for the first time. SERGEY BOBOK/Getty Images

Earlier in September, British defense officials had said that Western sanctions had made it hard for Russia to replace drones shot down by Ukrainian forces because of restricted access to components.

This had forced Moscow to turn to Iran, which has reportedly shipped Russia two types of UAVs. These are Shahed-type UAVs, such as the one shot down by Ukraine, which can carry missiles and be used for reconnaissance. The other is the Mohajer-6, a drone that can carry four precision-guided missiles.

"These new deliveries should create some parity in the drone domain," Marina Miron, a research fellow from the Defense Studies Department at King's College London told Newsweek last week, "moreover, they should help Russia to conduct strikes without putting its troops at risk."

She said that according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, "troop protection, is one of the priorities," in the war.

Depleted arms stocks have also pushed Moscow to rely on North Korea for artillery shells and rockets, The New York Times has reported, citing declassified intelligence.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday that "stabilization measures" were still ongoing in the Kharkiv region to cement his forces' spectacular gains in their counteroffensive over the last few days.