Russia secretly flew $141 million in cash and Western weapons seized in Ukraine to Iran this summer in exchange for 166 Iranian drones, Sky News reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed security source from an unidentified country.
According to Sky News, two Russian military cargo planes landed at a Tehran airport early on Aug. 20 carrying the cash, a U.S. Javelin anti-tank missile, a Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a British NLAW anti-tank missile.
The missiles intended for Ukraine “fell into Russian hands” and may be used by the Iranians for reverse engineering, the source was quoted as saying.
“It seems that Iran also wants to benefit from the war by receiving from the Russians Western capabilities that will be useful for them in the future,” they said.
In exchange for the $141 million and U.S.-British missiles, Russia had reportedly received 100 Shahed-136 drones, 60 smaller Shahed-131 drones and six Mohajer-6 drones.
Sky News said the source shared satellite imagery showing two Russian military cargo planes parked for around three and a half hours at the Tehran airport in the early hours of Aug. 20 as evidence of the deal.
At least five Russian aircraft have transported drones from Iran since Aug. 20, the source was cited as saying.
Moscow and Tehran have in recent days agreed on another $200-million drone deal, Sky News' source said, adding: “That means there will be another big supply of UAVs from Iran soon.”
Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying around 400 Iranian drones in a recent barrage of strikes on civilian infrastructure, causing widespread blackouts and water outages. Kyiv also said Russia has ordered around 2,000 more drones from Iran.
The Kremlin denies both claims.
After repeated denials, Iran this weekend admitted to having sent drones to Russia, but stressed that the deliveries took place before the February invasion of Ukraine.
The report on Russia’s alleged cash-for-drones deal with Iran comes amid claims by the Ukrainian air force this week that Tehran has agreed to supply Moscow with ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon said Tuesday it could not corroborate either the Ukrainian air force spokesman’s information or the Sky News report.