As if the crisis in Ukraine is not bad enough, the latest reports on the ground indicate that Iranian troops have arrived in the country.

The U.S. has evidence that Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea assisting Russia’s drone strikes in Ukraine, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday at a press briefing, AP reported.

Driving the news: Russia’s escalation of attacks — in some cases with the use of Iranian drones — on Ukraine since Oct. 10 has caused massive blackouts and energy rationing across Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned earlier this week that Russian attacks had already destroyed 30% of the country’s power stations.
  • Ukraine’s energy system has suffered more attacks since the Russian escalation ten days ago than in the previous eight months of the war, the country’s electric utility, Ukrenergo, wrote in a Telegram post Wednesday.

What they’re saying: “The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it’s the Russians who are doing the piloting,” Kirby said, per AP.

  • Kirby noted that the amount of Iranian personnel in Crimea was a “relatively small number.”
  • “We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs and using them to conduct strikes” against Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing Thursday, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • “We assess that Iranian personnel — Iranian military personnel — were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” he added.
  • “Russia has received dozens of these UAVs so far and will likely continue to receive additional shipments in the future.”

Russia has deployed dozens of drones purchased from Iran to Ukraine and has used them in attacks in recent days, including in the capital city of Kyiv, according to Kirby and State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

“Russia has received dozens of these UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) so far. And will likely continue to receive additional shipments in the future,” Price told reporters at a separate briefing.

The U.S. has “credible information that Russian officials prior to the presence of Iranian trainers in Crimea have received training in Iran,” Price said.

Citing Russia’s dwindling supplies of advanced weapons, Kirby said the administration was concerned that Iran would provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, but did not elaborate.