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Evidence offers proof Russia orders drones from Iran to attack Ukraine – The Washington Post

Shahed-136
An Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drone of the Russian army. Screenshot from video
Evidence offers proof Russia orders drones from Iran to attack Ukraine – The Washington Post

The Washington Post has received documents including technical schematics, personnel records, memorandums, and presentations from winter 2022 to spring 2023 that provide evidence of close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran in producing Shahed 136 kamikaze drones to target Ukrainian cities.

The documents of the “Project Boat” – a code name of a factory that produces drones reveal its location Republic of Tatarstan’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone. The factory plans to build 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025.

In correspondence, engineers used coded language: Drones were “boats,” their explosives were “bumpers,” and Iran — the country covertly providing technical assistance — was “Ireland” or “Belarus.”

The employees of the plant whose passports were seized so they could not leave the country, produce drones under the control of a retired official of Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Altogether, the documents indicate that, despite delays and a production process that is deeply reliant on foreign-produced electronic components, Moscow has made steady progress toward its goal of manufacturing a variant of the Iranian Shahed-136.

Researchers at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, who reviewed the documents, estimated that work at the plant is at least a month behind schedule. The facility has reassembled drones provided by Iran but has itself manufactured only drone bodies, and probably for not more than 300 of the UAVs, the researchers concluded. Alabuga is unlikely to meet its target date for the 6,000 drones, they said.

However, David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who helped lead the research team that studied the documents, said: “Alabuga looks to be seeking a drone developmental capability that exceeds Iran’s.”

Another research team found that the project faces challenges — including “doubt about its ability to reach its desired staffing levels” — but cautioned that Russia might be able to overcome those difficulties.

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