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Iran sent the supplies via two Russian-flagged cargo ships that sailed from Iran in January, according to U.K.-based Sky News. The shipment contained ammunition for rocket launchers, mortars, and machine guns to refill Russia’s depleted stores.
“Iran sent two cargo ships to the combat zone in Ukraine, carrying approximately 200 new shipping containers that contained ammunition for the Russian fighting in Ukraine,” a security source told Sky News. “Two hundred containers on two ships are capable of carrying this amount of munitions.”
In addition to the munitions, Iran sent roughly 10,000 flak jackets and helmets to Russia.
“Russia pays for the ammunition in cash and by doing so, bypasses the western sanctions on it, ignoring the sanctions on Iran,” the source told Sky News.
Another expert told Sky News that the estimated amount of munitions seemed high, though he did not contradict that Iran may be supplying Russia in its war against Ukraine.
U.S. officials have previously accused Iran of shipping drones to Russia that were later used in strikes on Ukrainian targets. Officials have found debris of downed drones that looks “indistinguishable” from attack drones and unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran.
Supplying drones to Russia gives Iranian arms dealers a chance to showcase their product in action and market it to allied nations, according to a U.S. official.
“They are getting to see it used on a mass level,” an official told the Associated Press last month. “It’s a process for them. Iran is able to see this feedback and make adjustments.”
The report of Iran’s involvement comes as U.S. officials have expressed concern over China potentially becoming more involved in the war. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last month that such action from China would further strain U.S.-China relations.
“The concern that we have now is, based on information we have, that they’re considering providing lethal support,” Blinken told CBS’s Face the Nation last month. “And we’ve made very clear to them that that could cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship.”
China and Russia have grown closer in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually in December. The two world leaders touted shared goals and a strengthening alliance afterward.
Beijing said in a statement afterward that China and Russia should “strengthen strategic coordination” and “inject more stability into the world.” Putin described relations between Moscow and Beijing as “the best in history.”
“We share the same views on the causes, course and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape,” Putin said. “In the face of unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West, we defend our principled positions and defend not only our own interests, but also all those who stand for a truly democratic system and the right of countries to freely determine their own destiny.”