An Iranian Qods Mohajer-6 drone, posted on Twitter by the  Ukrainian Defense Ministry Oct. 3, 2022. Ukrainian officials said the drone was launched to coordinate an attack on Odesa.

An Iranian Qods Mohajer-6 drone, posted on Twitter by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Oct. 3, 2022. Ukrainian officials said the drone was launched to coordinate an attack on Odesa. (Ukraine Defense Ministry/Twitter)

European Union countries want to review evidence to confirm when Iranian drones were delivered to Russia before imposing new sanctions against the country, according to people familiar with the issue.

Ukrainian officials have highlighted the use of Iranian-made drones in recent Russian attacks across Ukraine since mid-September. Several reports and intelligence assessments have concluded that drones were most likely delivered during the summer.

Iran has repeatedly denied exporting any weapons for use in the war in Ukraine. E.U. states want to nail down that the drones were delivered after Russia's invasion, given the firmness of Tehran's denials, said the people, who asked not to be named on a confidential matter.

It is likely the bloc will make progress on more sanctions against Iran this week, one of the people said, despite concern such measures would risk further distancing Tehran from the bloc and pushing it closer toward Russia. Another person said the aim is to have new penalties in place by the end of the month. It hasn't been decided yet what shape the penalties will take, but one of the people said any sanctions on weapons deliveries could result in trade-related measures.

The drones have given the Russian President Vladimir Putin a relatively cheap way to strike Ukraine at a time when it's running short of other key military hardware.

E.U. foreign ministers meeting Monday places sanctions on Iran's morality police and other entities over human rights violations related to the death of a young woman in police custody. They also discussed drones and missile deliveries to Russia, with some stating the evidence is already clear while others urged caution and balance, one of the people said.

"We are gathering evidence, and we will be ready to react with the tools at our disposal," Josep Borrell, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief, told reporters after the meeting. He added that some countries called for a compilation of all the evidence from intelligence services of countries including Ukraine.

An explanation given by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba via videoconference was "decisive" for many ministers, Borrell added.

Russia has launched Iranian-made drones mainly from the south — including Crimea and parts of occupied Kherson — although some were sent from Belarus and Russia's Kursk region, Ukraine air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said on national television Tuesday. Over the past two days, 51 Shahed drones have been downed, he added.

Russians are using Iranian Mohajer-6 and Shahed series drones that were delivered in the beginning of August, a senior NATO official said last week. The drones are being used for kinetic attacks as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Group of Seven leaders earlier this month that Russia ordered 2,400 Iranian-made Shaheds.

Russian officials visited Kashan airfield on June 8 and July 5 to view drones before they were delivered, and the Iranian government is preparing to provide Moscow with anywhere from a few to several hundred UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, the NATO official added. A Russian delegation also visited Iran in August, another official said.

Drones and missiles have targeted infrastructure and people's homes, according to Ukrainian officials.

"Another kind of Russian terrorist attacks: targeting [Ukrainian] energy and critical infrastructure," Zelenskyy tweeted Tuesday. "Since Oct 10, 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country. No space left for negotiations with Putin's regime."

The issue of further Iran sanctions is due to come up in working groups before an E.U. leaders summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, some of the people familiar said. Leaders are expected to discuss the topic at the summit as some countries are pushing for this, an E.U. official said.

A new package of sanctions on Iran, this time to punish it for potential arms exports, would be the first time the E.U. punished another country besides Belarus over involvement in Russia's war in Ukraine since the February invasion.

Asked whether E.U. countries would support new penalties on Iran once all the evidence has been gathered, Borrell said Monday, "I don't think there will be any problem on the part of the member states."

The discussions come as negotiations stall over a deal with Iran to end its nuclear program, one of the only avenues where E.U. and U.S. officials still communicate with Moscow. E.U. diplomats have stressed the process should remain separate from any measures they take over Ukraine.

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