By George Wright
Iran has deployed military experts in Russian-occupied Crimea to help launch drone attacks on Ukraine, the White House says.
The Iranians are trainers and tech support workers, a US spokesman said.
The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was struck by so-called “kamikaze” drones on Monday, deployed by Russia but believed to be Iranian-made.
The UK has announced sanctions on Iranian businesses and individuals responsible for supplying the drones.
“We assess that Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
A “relatively small” number of Iranians are providing technical support and Russians are piloting the drones in Ukraine, he said.
“Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground, and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” Mr Kirby said.
The US will “pursue all means” to “expose, deter and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions against the Ukrainian people”, he added.
Ukraine identified the drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – used on Monday as Iranian Shahed-136 weapons.
They are known as “kamikaze” drones because they are destroyed in the attack – named after the Japanese fighter pilots who flew suicide missions in World War Two.
Russia has used the drones and missiles to hit critical infrastructure around Ukraine in recent days, destroying almost a third of the country’s power stations since Monday last week.
As a result, restrictions on electricity use were introduced in Ukraine for the first time on Thursday.
In response to Russia’s use of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine, the UK has announced sanctions against three Iranian generals and an arms company.
James Clever, the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, charged those named with “warmongering” and making money off of Moscow’s “abhorrent” attacks.
Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the head of staff of Iran’s armed forces, and the drone manufacturer Shahed Aviation Industries are among those who have been targeted.
Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has charged Moscow with planting explosives on a significant dam in southern Ukraine.
According to Mr. Zelensky, 80 towns and cities could be inundated by the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could be left without water for cooling.
Additionally, it might cut off the water supply to all of southern Ukraine, including Crimea.
According to a respected think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, Moscow may be considering an attack on the dam, which it would then blame on Ukraine, in the hopes that the ensuing flooding will provide cover for Russian forces as they withdraw from some of the Kherson region. The dam is located 70 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Kherson.
In anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive to seize the city, Russia is evacuating civilians from the Kherson region under its control.
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