UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States and key Western allies on Friday accused Russia of using Iranian drones to attack civilians and power plants in Ukraine, in violation of a 2015 UN Security Council resolution and international humanitarian law.
Russia countered by accusing Ukraine of eight years of attacking infrastructure and civilians in the eastern separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed earlier this year.
The US, France, Germany and Britain backed Ukraine’s call for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to send a team to investigate the origins of the drones.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the drones were Russian and warned that an investigation would violate the UN charter and seriously affect Russia-UN relations.
Deputy US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said that “the UN must investigate all violations of UN Security Council resolutions – and we must not allow Russia or others to prevent or threaten the UN from carrying out its mandated tasks.”
The Western clash with Russia over attacks on civilians and infrastructure and the use of Iranian drones came at an open council meeting, which also focused on the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine ahead of the approaching winter. Nearly 18 million people, more than 40% of Ukraine’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance, says Denise Brown, UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
United Nations political chief Rosemary DiCarlo expressed to the Council her deep concern that at least 38 Ukrainian civilians were killed in Russian missile and drone strikes in cities and towns across Ukraine between October 10 and 18, at least 117 were injured and major energy infrastructure including electricity plants were destroyed.
She cited the Ukrainian government’s announcement that 30% of the country’s power plants were affected, mostly in the capital Kyiv and in the regions of Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
“Combined with soaring gas and coal prices, the deprivations caused by these attacks threaten to subject millions of civilians to extreme hardship and even life-threatening conditions this winter,” she said.
DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacekeeping Affairs, said that “under international humanitarian law, attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited.” This also applies to “attacks on military targets that could be expected to cause damage to civilians that would be excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage,” she said.
Nebenzia claimed that high-precision missile strikes and Russian drones – not Iranian drones – hit a large number of military targets, including infrastructure, to disrupt Ukrainian military activities.
“Of course, the West didn’t sit well with that and they got hysterical, and that’s what we’re seeing loud and clear at the meeting today,” the Russian ambassador said.
He said the West “doesn’t want to face facts,” acknowledging that civilian infrastructure has only been hit in cases where Ukrainian defense actions have forced drones to change course. He said Ukrainian air defenses also hit civilian sites because they missed incoming attacks.
In a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Iran of violating a Security Council ban on transferring drones with a range of 300 kilometers (about 185 miles).
That provision was part of Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six key nations — the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear activities and keeping the country involved in development to prevent a nuclear weapon.
US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, and negotiations between the Biden administration and Iran over a US readmission to the deal have stalled.
According to the resolution, a conventional arms embargo against Iran was in effect until October 2020. But the restrictions on missiles and related technologies will last until October 2023, and Western diplomats say that includes the export and purchase of advanced military systems like drones, which are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
Iranian Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said on Wednesday that he “categorically rejects unsubstantiated and unsubstantiated allegations that Iran has transferred UAVs for use (in) the conflict in Ukraine.” He accused unnamed countries of attempting to launch a disinformation campaign to “falsely link” the UN resolution.
“Moreover, Iran firmly believes that none of its arms exports, including UAVs, to any country” violates Resolution 2231, he added.
France, Germany and Britain on Friday supported Ukraine’s accusation that Iran, contrary to the 2015 resolution, supplied Russia with drones and used them in attacks on civilians and power plants in Ukraine. They supported Kiev’s call for a UN investigation.
The three European countries said in a joint letter to the 15 council members that reports in open sources suggest Iran intends to transfer more drones to Russia along with ballistic missiles.
Neither Iran nor Russia have requested prior Council approval for the transfer of Mohajer and Shahed UAVs and have therefore “violated Resolution 2231,” the letter said.
The US sent a similar letter, saying Iranian drones had been transferred to Russia in late August, and called on the UN Secretariat team responsible for overseeing the implementation of the resolution to conduct “a technical and impartial investigation.” to be carried out that evaluates the type of UAVs involved in these transfers”.
Nebenzia also sent a letter claiming that DiCarlo sided with the West in conducting an investigation. His letter insists that “the UN Secretariat has no authority to conduct an ‘investigation'” in relation to Resolution 2231, or to engage in any other form.