Iran is supplying Russia with large quantities of bullets, rockets and mortar shells, a new report suggests. Shipments containing heavy weaponry and artillery have been spotted leaving ports in Iran, travelling through the Caspian Sea to the country currently at war with Ukraine. Iran has been deeply involved in the Ukraine war since late 2022 when it committed to supplying arms for Russia‘s assault, providing a batch of medium-range missiles and cheap but effective drones.
This year, both Ukraine and Russia have desperately tried to source ammunition as their stores dwindle. While Russia uses some 20,000 artillery shells per day, Ukraine uses 4,000.
Now, security forces have told Sky News that Iran has received substantial amounts of cash for “secret” and large quantities of ammunition — and plans to send more.
The publication noted that it was “not possible” to independently verify the volume of the alleged assistance, and one expert said the amount sounded unusually high.
Much of the previously alleged assistance and drones are thought to have played a serious part in Russia‘s attempts to destroy Ukraine‘s energy infrastructure.
Describing the close relations between Iran and Russia, which existed before the war, the security source told Sky: “Russia continues to use Iran as a ‘rear base.'”
Sky News’ Data & Forensics Unit researched the claims about the movement of the ships and concluded that they were plausible, although they concluded that the exact dates the ships left may differ.
MarineTraffic, the maritime shipping tracker, shows that the two ships were at the Iranian port of Amirabad on the Caspian Sea on January 9.
Satellite imagery obtained by Sky shows at least one of the ships still at the port the following day.
According to MarineTraffic data, the Musa Jalil left the port at around 10am local time on January 10, the Begey departing on the same day.
The tracking website shows that both ships stopped off the coast of Turkmenistan for a couple of days on January 12, for reasons unknown.
The Musa Jalil and the Begey later made their way across the Caspian Sea and arrived at the Russian port of Astrakhan on January 27, remaining at the port for some days before leaving on February 3.
The source said: “Iran sent two cargo ships to the combat zone in Ukraine, carrying approximately 200 new shipping containers that contained ammunition for the Russian fighting in Ukraine.”
They listed in great detail the contents of the ship, which, they claim, included around 100 million bullets of different sizes — 5.56mm, 7.62mm, 9mm, 12.7mm and 14.5mm — to be used in various weapons such as pistols, assault rifles and machine guns.
Other ammunition was also being carried, including approximately 300,000 shells, such as 40mm grenades for grenade launchers, 107mm anti-tank rockets, and mortar shells of different sizes – 60mm, 81mm and 120mm – as well as artillery rockets (130mm, 122mm and 152mm) and armour shells (115mm and 125mm).
The source said there were also close to 10,000 flak jackets and helmets on board.
“Russia pays for the ammunition in cash and by doing so, bypasses the western sanctions on it, ignoring the sanctions on Iran,” they added.
It isn’t the first time sources have claimed that Iran is sending weapons to Russia.
In early February, a source told The Guardian that the regime was sending Moscow new types of advanced long-range armed drones.
At least 18 drones were delivered to President Vladimir Putin’s navy after officers and technicians visited Tehran in November. It was here they were shown a full range of Iran’s military technologies.
During the visit, the Russian delegation, which consisted of 10 officials, selected six Mohajer-6 drones, which have a range of around 200km and carry two missiles under each wing. They are also thought to have picked out 12 Shahed 191 and 129 drones, which similarly have an air-to-ground strike capability.
Reports suggest Moscow was initially hesitant to buy weapons from Iran in case Ukraine‘s western allies responded by supplying Kyiv with long-range rockets.
NATO country chiefs say Putin is aware that the US could send the long-sought ATACMS missile system, whose 300km range could reach deep into Russian-held territory.
However, the US and other Western countries are known to be undecided about sending such weapons as they could lead Putin to accuse NATO of waging war on Russian soil.