had to rely on Iranian-made drones over the winter to carry out devastating waves of strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. However, the Russian military is now running low on the vital weapon supply from Tehran, according to EU officials. In response, Vladimir Putin has now been forced to turn to Xi Jinping’s for copycat supplies
The supply squeeze, brought on by Western sanctions, comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine nears its one-year mark.
Earlier this week, Iran confirmed that there was now a “queue” of orders for its drones, which may have forced Russia to turn elsewhere for supplies.
In addition to Iran, Russia has also previously turned to North Korea for weaponry in its war with Ukraine.
The news of China selling its own kamikaze drones to Russia was first reported in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Der Spiegel reported that Russia is in talks with a Chinese manufacturer about buying 100 ZT-180 drones, with a delivery date of April.
The ZT-180 drones are thought to be ‘copycat’ versions of the Iranian drones, the Shahed 136.
According to the Chinese drone manufacturer Xian Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology, the ZT-180 drone could carry a 35-50kg warhead.
The company also plans to deliver components and expertise to Russia so the country itself can make around 100 drones a month.
The surprise order of Chinese drones follows assessments from European Union officials that Russia is running low on stocks of Iranian-made drones.
The Russian military had deployed hundreds of Iran’s Shahed 136 to target residential buildings, power plants, and heating facilities in recent months.
However, most of the drones were shot down by Ukraine’s air defences.
The low stock of Iranian drones follows claims by Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s spy chief, that Russia had brought 20,000 shells from Iran and was now trying to get another batch.
Mr Budanov noted that this is an extremely small amount for such an intense war, but the order confirms that Russia is running out of supplies.
Meanwhile, relations between Iran and China also appear to be strengthening as an anti-Western alliance forms.
Last weekend, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Beijing and met with President Xi.
The visit comes just weeks after an adviser to Iran’s minister of intelligence confirmed that China had ordered 15,000 of its military drones.
The adviser said that 90 countries are “customers” of Iranian drones, with a “queue” now in place to manage the demand.