For weeks, Ukraine has been under fire from Iranian drones fired by the Russian military. Most of them have now been intercepted by anti-aircraft defenses, but according to the British Ministry of Defence, a good third still reach their target: critical infrastructure facilities as well as residential areas.

In an interview with the German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” the Prime Minister of the country, Denys Schmyhal, made it clear just how badly these drones are affecting Ukraine.

“The Russians use twenty to thirty Iranian kamikaze drones against us every day,” he said. Schmyhal warned of a “migration tsunami” if Russian troops continued to destroy civilian infrastructure in a targeted manner.

“They want to take away our people’s electricity, water and heating in winter,” said the prime minister. The German defense system IRIS-T has saved “a great many human lives”, especially in the Kyiv area.

But Ukraine is waiting impatiently for the next delivery of ammunition and the next system. “It’s literally a matter of days,” said the prime minister.

Both Russia and Iran have vehemently opposed any effort to elucidate the origin of the drones. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Wassili Nebensja, dismissed a corresponding request by the USA as an “outrageous situation”.

Should there be an investigation by the United Nations (UN), Russia would have to reconsider cooperation with the UN. Iran made a similar statement.

Iran is so persistently denying the delivery and use of its drones because it does not want to jeopardize the talks on the nuclear agreement, says Markus Kaim from the Security Policy research group of the Berlin Science and Politics Foundation. Iran does not want to alienate its interlocutors, above all the Europeans (Great Britain, France, Germany).

As long as the origin of the drones has not been clarified beyond doubt, negotiations on the nuclear agreement can still continue. An admission, on the other hand, would make it very difficult for the Europeans to continue negotiations.

“They would then find themselves confronted with a policy which, although it has nothing to do with the nuclear agreement in substance, should be understood as so hostile that opponents of the nuclear agreement could probably press for the talks to be broken off with some success,” said Kaim in the DW interview.

According to Markus Kaim, the evidence for the use of Iranian drones is obvious. He refers to video recordings from drones of salvaged debris that the Ukrainians presented to the world public.

“In my estimation, there can be little doubt about the matter. And I don’t know of any serious experts who doubt that there were arms deliveries,” Kaim said in a DW interview.

The military expert Markus Reisner, head of the research and development department at the Theresian Military Academy in Vienna, sees it the same way. Massive transport movements by Russian aircraft to Iran and back are a clear indicator of the transport of large quantities of material.

“The design of the secured drones also clearly speaks for an Iranian model.” The drones are used primarily because the arsenal of Russian aircraft is not coming to an end, but there are indications of a certain deficiency.

According to Reisner, two types of drones in particular would be used: the Mohajer-6 type and the Shahed-136 type.

The Mohaer-6 can spot and monitor a target. Like other drones of this type, it plays a major role in spotting artillery targets. “But it can also be equipped with air-to-surface missiles, so it can also engage targets after spotting them.”

The Shahed-136, on the other hand, is a classic kamikaze drone. It is guided by a GPS system that guides you exactly to your destination with constant course corrections. The essential thing, however, is that this drone is usually not used in isolation.

“Rather, it usually flies in a swarm of 10 to 15 other drones. This overloads the Ukrainian defense systems.” Although the systems shoot down some of the drones, some of the 15 still reach the target.

The Russians then fire their cruise missiles, against which the air defense can do little because new missiles cannot be reloaded so quickly. This in turn is also due to the fact that Ukraine’s systems are exhausted after eight months, despite all the support.

There is also something else, according to Reisner: “The drones are comparatively small. However, conventional Ukrainian air defenses are usually programmed for much larger objects, such as airplanes and helicopters. That’s why you either have to retrofit them or rely on the modern systems that are now being delivered to the Ukraine. These are so-called multi-sensor systems. So they have very different sensors that work on an acoustic, optical or electromagnetic basis.” These systems can also intercept small targets.

Ukraine is optimistic about countering the drones. “Of course we don’t have the technical capabilities to disable 100 percent of Russian missiles and combat drones,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message. However, he is certain that this will be achieved step by step with the help of international partners. “We are already shooting down most of the cruise missiles and drones.”

However, you have to be careful, says Markus Reisner. Statements like these are also part of psychological warfare. “It’s absolutely legitimate. But you also have to see that the Russian missiles work very precisely. When you hear that 40 percent of Ukraine’s infrastructure has been hit, that speaks for the enormous precision of the Russian attacks. Ukraine’s air defense has taken a heavy hit over the past eight months. This is now noticeable. It is true that the Russians do not have air sovereignty and cannot fly planes over Ukraine. But they have air superiority. They can attack targets wherever they want.”

Strategically, that is fatal. So Reisner continues. “Because the Ukrainian army is advancing in the south and east of the country. But in the hinterland, the infrastructure is hit. In other words, people are facing a very, very harsh winter. This could then lead to further flight movements to the West and lead to social resentment there. This is exactly what Russia is banking on.”

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The original for this article “Iranian drones against Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.