An informed security source said that Iran secretly provided Russia with large quantities of bullets, missiles and mortars in its war on Ukraine and plans to send more. The source added to the British Sky News network that two Russian-flagged cargo ships left a port in Iran in January, heading to Russia across the Caspian Sea, carrying nearly 100 million bullets and about 300,000 shells.
The source confirmed that ammunition for rocket launchers, mortars and machine guns was included in the shipments, adding that Moscow paid for the ammunition in cash.
Western security sources had suspected that Iran was shipping ammunition to Russia to help replenish its stocks on the front line in Ukraine, where Russian supplies are believed to be running low after more than a year of President Putin’s all-out war.
Zoom satellite images (according to Sky News)
This assistance comes on top of previous assistance provided by Tehran, which provided Moscow with hundreds of killer drones, which played a role in attempts to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“Russia continues to use Iran as a ‘rear base’,” the security source said, describing the close military relations between the two countries. Western and Ukrainian officials have also warned that Iran may supply it with more deadly ballistic missiles, but there is no evidence of this happening yet.
In addition to Iranian support, concern is growing in Western capitals about the possibility that China might start supplying weapons to Russia, a move the United States warned would have “serious consequences” for Beijing. China denied the allegations.
‘Secret’ cargo ships
The security source said that the two public cargo ships allegedly involved in transporting ammunition from Iran to Russia were called the Musa Jalil and the Begi. Both sail under the Russian flag.
The source said he believes one of the two ships left Iran around January 10 and the other around January 12. According to the source, it is believed that the two ships were carrying about 200 shipping containers full of weapons.
The source said they are confident of their estimate of the amount of ammunition being transferred. He added that “two hundred containers aboard two ships are capable of carrying this amount of ammunition.”
Shipping tracker MarineTraffic spotted the two vessels in Iran’s Amirabad port on the Caspian Sea on January 9. Satellite images from the next day obtained by the network show that at least one of the ships is still in port. According to marine tracking data, the Musa Jalil ship left the port at around 10 am local time on January 10, while it left Peggy on the same day. And on January 12, again according to tracking data, the two ships stopped off the coast of Turkmenistan for a few days.
They then sailed across the Caspian Sea and arrived at the Russian port of Astrakhan on January 27. It remained in port for several days before they departed on February 3, according to tracking data.
The source stated that the alleged shipment consisted of about 100 million bullets of various sizes – 5.56mm, 7.62mm, 9mm, 12.7mm and 14.5mm – for use in weapons such as pistols, assault rifles and machine guns.
The ships were also carrying a range of other munitions, including nearly 300,000 shells, such as 40mm grenades for grenade launchers, 107mm anti-tank missiles, and mortars of different sizes – 60mm, 81mm and 120mm – As well as artillery rockets (130mm, 122mm, 152mm) and armor shells (115mm and 125mm).
In addition, the source said, there were approximately 10,000 bulletproof vests and helmets on board. The source added, “Russia paid the price of the ammunition in cash, thus bypassing Western sanctions against it, ignoring the sanctions imposed on Iran.”
For his part, General Sir Richard Barrons, a former senior British military officer, commented that the flow of 300,000 shells from Iran, while beneficial to Russia, would not last long given the rate of fire. He added that, by contrast, if China decided to make its huge stocks of ammunition available to President Putin’s war machine, it would be “very difficult for Ukraine”.