Iran on Friday urged its Ukrainian citizens to leave the country and warned against all travel to the war-torn country a day after the United States accused Tehran of aiding Russia’s war effort .
“Due to the military escalation in Ukraine, all Iranians are strongly advised to refrain from traveling to Ukraine. Additionally, Iranians living in Ukraine are advised to leave the country for their own safety,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The department did not mention comments made Thursday by White House national security spokesman John Kirby, who said the United States had learned that Iranian troops were “directly engaged on the ground.” in Crimea to help Russia.
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In July, Western officials warned that Tehran would “donate” hundreds of Ariel unmanned vehicles (UAVs) to Moscow as Russian troops in Ukraine waned and its advance stalled.
Since September, Russia has dramatically increased the number of drone strikes it has carried out on civilians and infrastructure-based targets, such as Ukrainian power systems.
On Thursday, Kirby confirmed that not only is Iran providing drones, but Iranian military personnel have been sent to Crimea to help Russian forces fly Tehran’s drones.
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Moscow has relied on missile strikes since the start of the war, and Kyiv has repeatedly called on Western allies to help with air defense as Russian forces have been pushed back to the ground but continue to attack from the sky.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week urged G7 nations to help Kyiv create an “air shield” – a request that could become even more urgent following Kirby’s suggestion that Tehran could provide additional missile systems to Russia.
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“Russia may also seek to acquire advanced conventional weapons from Iran, such as surface-to-surface missiles that will almost certainly be used to support the war against Ukraine,” Kirby told reporters.
He did not specifically mention Zelenskyy’s calls for an “air shield”, but said: “The United States will seek every means to expose, deter and confront Iran’s supply of these munitions against the people Ukrainian”.