Russia appears to be moving forward with plans to purchase ballistic missiles from Iran, a US official told CNN, as Moscow steps up its missile attacks on targets across Ukraine.
Russian negotiations to acquire the close-range ballistic missiles from Iran “are actively advancing,” the official said, citing newly declassified US intelligence. The official pointed to a meeting between Iranian military officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Iran in September, where the Iranians showcased to the Russians their Ababil close-range ballistic missile and other missile systems.
“This event marked the first public display of ballistic missiles to a senior Russian official visiting Iran since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war,” the official said.
Then, in mid-December, the IRGC deployed ballistic missiles and missile support systems to a training area inside Iran to display to a visiting Russian delegation, the official said —all signs that Russia intends to purchase the systems from Iran.
CNN has reached out to the Russian embassy and the Iranian UN mission for comment.
The potential weapons deal comes as the US has run out of funding to provide to Ukraine until Congress approves the administration’s emergency supplemental request. Russia, meanwhile, has dramatically intensified its missile attacks on Ukrainian targets across the country in recent days, and has maintained its defense partnership with Iran.
The provision of ballistic missiles would mark a significant escalation of Iran’s support for Russia. Iran has already provided Russia with hundreds of drones that Russian forces have used in their war against Ukraine, and Russia is building a drone-manufacturing facility in country with Iran’s help that could have a significant impact on the war in Ukraine once it is completed, CNN has reported.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Russia intends to purchase the ballistic missiles. The possibility of such a transfer was first raised months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has been a source of deep concern for US officials, CNN has reported.
Later on Thursday, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby confirmed that Russia and Iran appear close to a deal for the ballistic missiles, though they don’t appear to have been delivered yet.
He added that North Korea has already begun supplying Russia with missiles and launchers.
“Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage. And they’ve been forced to look to like-minded states for military equipment. As we’ve been warning publicly, one of those states is North Korea. Our information indicates that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several ballistic missiles,” Kirby said.
He added that it appears the missiles have been used in attacks on Ukraine and the US is still assessing the impacts. In reciprocation, Kirby said the United States believes North Korea “is seeking military assistance from Russia, including fighter aircraft surface to air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment, or materials and other advanced technologies.”
Kirby said in response to these arms deals, the United States will raise the issue at the UN Security Council as “Russia’s procurement of ballistic missiles from the DPRK directly violates multiple UN Security Council resolutions.”
“Second, we will impose additional sanctions against those working to facilitate arms transfers between Russia and the DPRK and between Russia and Iran,” he added.
Kirby reiterated Congress needs to act so US support of Ukraine can continue.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Aileen Graef contributed to this story.