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Iran warns citizens to leave Ukraine after US accuses it of aiding Russia in war

Iran on Friday urged its citizens in Ukraine to leave the country and warned against travel to the war-torn nation one day after the U.S. accused Tehran of aiding Russia’s war effort. 

“Due to the military escalation in Ukraine, all Iranians are strongly advised to refrain from traveling to Ukraine. Also, Iranians living in Ukraine are advised to leave the country for their own safety,” the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The ministry did not mention comments made on Thursday by White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, who said the U.S. had learned that Iranian troops were “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea helping Russia.

IRANIAN TROOPS IN CRIMEA TRAINING RUSSIANS ON DRONE STRIKES AGAINST UKRAINE, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

Western officials in July warned that Tehran would be “gifting” hundreds of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) to Moscow as Russia’s troops in Ukraine falter and its progression stalled. 

Since September, Russia has significantly increased the number of drone strikes it has carried out on civilians and infrastructure-based targets, like Ukraine’s electrical systems. 

On Thursday Kirby confirmed that not only has Iran been providing drones, but Iranian military personnel have been placed in Crimea to help Russian forces pilot Tehran’s UAVs.

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Moscow has relied on missile strikes since the onslaught of the war, and Kyiv has repeatedly called on Western allies to assist with air defense as Russian forces have been pushed back on the ground but continue to attack from the sky. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week urged G7 nations to assist Kyiv with creating an “air shield” – a request that could become even more urgent following Kirby’s suggestion that Tehran could provide additional missile systems to Russia.

“Russia may also seek to acquire advanced conventional weapons from Iran, such as surface-to-surface missiles that will almost certainly be used to support the war against Ukraine,” Kirby told reporters. 

He did not specifically mention Zelenskyy’s calls for an “air shield” but said, “The United States is going to pursue all means to expose, deter and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions against the Ukrainian people.”

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