By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The United States accused U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of “apparently yielding to Russian threats” and not sending officials to Ukraine to inspect drones used by Russia that Washington and others say were supplied by Iran.
Russia has denied its forces used Iranian drones in Ukraine and argues there is no mandate for U.N. officials to travel to Kyiv to investigate the origin of the drones. Iran has acknowledged it had supplied Moscow with drones, but said they were sent before Russia invaded its neighbor in February.
Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Ukraine say the supply of Iranian-made drones to Russia violates a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal. They want Guterres to send officials to Kyiv to investigate.
“We regret that the U.N. has not moved to carry out a normal investigation of this reported violation,” U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Robert Wood told a Security Council meeting on Monday on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resolution.
“We are disappointed that the Secretariat, apparently yielding to Russian threats, has not carried out the investigatory mandate this council has given it,” Wood said.
In a report to the council earlier this month, Guterres said U.N. officials were examining the available information and any findings would be reported to the council in due course.
When asked on Monday about the pressure he faced, Guterres told reporters the Western accusation that Iran had supplied Russia with drones used in Ukraine was being looked at “in the broader picture of everything we are doing in the context of the war to determine if and when we should” send officials to Kyiv.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the Security Council on Monday that U.N. officials “should not bow to pressure from Western countries” and that “any results of this pseudo investigation … are null and void.”
Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said Iran has not transferred to Russia any items prohibited by the Security Council. He also said Iranian drones supplied to Russia before February were not banned by the council and “have not been transferred for use in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”
He described the accusations as baseless and termed them as an attempt “to divert attention from the Western States’ transfer of massive amounts of advanced sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine in order to prolong the conflict.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Editing by Matthew Lewis)