Iran One of Russia’s Top Military Backers, UK Says

Iran has become one of Russia’s top military backers since the invasion of Ukraine, according to the British Defense Ministry intelligence update posted on Twitter Saturday.

Iran’s support of Russia is likely to grow, the ministry said, because “Russia is attempting to obtain more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles.  In return Russia is highly likely offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship.”

“Russia has highly likely expended a large proportion of its stock of its own SS-26 Islander short range ballistic missiles, which carry a 500kg warhead up to 500km,” the ministry said.  “If Russia succeeds in bringing a large number of Iranian ballistic missiles into service, it will likely use them to continue and expand its campaign of strikes against Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Washington was deeply concerned about the “deepening and burgeoning defense partnership” between Iran and Russia, and that the United States would be using its tools to disrupt that relationship.

He said the U.S. government also would be calling on partner countries to discuss and address the Russia-Iran partnership.

Russia war crimes

During an international conference in Kyiv on Friday for the protection of humanity against crimes of aggression, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a legal tribunal should hold Russia accountable for its war crimes. He also outlined the 10 points of the Ukrainian peace formula.

“From nuclear security to the restoration of the territorial integrity of our state, from energy security to the return of all prisoners of war and deportees held on the territory of Russia,” he said.  “We must return the Ukrainian flag to all cities and communities of Ukraine, we must ensure the real responsibility of the terrorist state for this war, and we must guarantee the safety of all generations of Ukrainians after the end of this war,” he added.

On Saturday, Financial Times Editor Roula Khalaf said, “Zelenskyy has come to embody the courage and resilience of these people. That is why our editorial board chose him as our Person of the Year.”

Time magazine also chose Zelenskyy as its Person of the Year.

During the Time magazine event Friday on the remarkable people and happenings of 2022, dedicated to Zelenskyy and the spirit of Ukraine, the Ukrainian president said it is an honor “to represent the struggle of Ukrainians and the spirit of Ukraine.” He thanked everyone for supporting his country.

The Kremlin said Time’s choice was “Russophobic.”

US Ukraine aid

U.S. President Joe Biden authorized a new round of $275 million in military aid for Ukraine, offering new capabilities to defeat drones and boost air defenses, according to a memo released Friday by the White House.

The package also includes rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers made by Lockheed Martin, 80,000 155 mm artillery rounds, Humvee military vehicles and about 150 generators, according to the memo.

This is the 27th use of presidential drawdown authority for Ukraine, which allows the United States to transfer defense articles and services from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

In total, the United States has committed $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed approximately $22.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, and more than $19.3 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion Feb. 24.

Russia’s weapons

Meanwhile, Russia is expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly suggested he could use nuclear weapons to protect Russia, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday.

“As the Kremlin continues its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine, the whole world has seen Putin engage in deeply irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling,” Austin said. He made the comments at a ceremony for the incoming commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

According to a recent Pentagon policy document on nuclear arms, Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with close to 6,000 warheads, according to experts. Together, Russia and the United States hold about 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads — enough to destroy the planet many times over.

Putin said Friday that Russia’s near-total loss of trust in the West would make an eventual settlement over Ukraine much harder to reach, although contacts between Russian and U.S. intelligence services were at least continuing.

Since suffering a series of military setbacks, Putin has increasingly pitched his invasion of Ukraine as a fight to defend Russia against an aggressive “collective West.”

VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report. Some information for this story came from Reuters.   

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