By Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on companies and people it accused of being involved in the production or transfer of Iranian drones that have been used by Russia in attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
The United States is seeking to increase pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which has reduced cities to rubble and killed or wounded thousands.
Russia has procured drones from Iran that have been used to attack cities and power infrastructure in Ukraine. Iranian military entities and industries are already under heavy US sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear development program.
Iran has acknowledged that it had supplied Moscow with drones but said they were sent before the war in Ukraine.
“As we have demonstrated repeatedly, the United States is determined to sanction people and companies, no matter where they are located, that support Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.
“Today’s action exposes and holds accountable companies and individuals that have enabled Russia’s use of Iranian-built UAVs to brutalize Ukrainian civilians,” she said, using the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone.
Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said Iran was ready to meet with Ukraine at the level of technical experts and investigate drone or parts ownership claims.
“Therefore, any accusation or action against Iran before this meeting isn’t acceptable and will be rejected,” the mission said of Tuesday’s sanctions.
Russia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The US Treasury Department, in a statement, said it imposed sanctions on the Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, which it said was subordinate to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, accusing the firm of being responsible for the design and production of Shahed -series drones being used by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Also designated were United Arab Emirates air transportation firms Success Aviation Services FZC and iJet Global DMCC, which the Treasury accused of collaborating with an Iranian firm under US sanctions to coordinate flights between Iran and Russia, including those tied to transporting Iranian drones, personnel and related equipment.
Treasury said the action against the two companies was taken in cooperation with the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Private military company Wagner group, IRGC Aerospace Force, and Qods Aviation Industries – already under US sanctions – were also designated by the State Department in Tuesday’s move, the Treasury said.
Treasury also targeted Abbas Djuma and Tigran Khristoforovich Srabionov, accusing the two of being involved in the Wagner group’s acquisition of Iranian drones to support combat operations in Ukraine.
Tuesday’s move freezes any US assets of those designated and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those who engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)