Wreckage of an Iranian kamikaze drone shot down by Ukrainians.
Wreckage of an Iranian kamikaze drone shot down by Ukrainians. Image Credit: Reuters

United Nations: France, Britain and Germany called Friday in a letter to the United Nations for an "impartial" investigation into Iranian drones the West says Russia is using in the war in Ukraine.

"We would welcome an investigation by the UN Secretariat team responsible for monitoring the implementation of UNSCR 2231," the UN ambassadors of the three countries wrote.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsed the international agreement that provided for sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program  — a deal that was later scrapped by then-US president Donald Trump.

In their letter, which was addressed to the Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the ambassadors said they would "stand ready to support the work of the Secretariat in conducting its technical and impartial investigation."

They added that they were "deeply concerned by the transfer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran to Russia in violation" of the resolution.

"These UAVs are being used by Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine in attacks against civilian infrastructure and cities across Ukraine, leading to the death of innocent civilians," they wrote.

French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere called on Iran "to immediately cease all forms of support to Russia's aggression on Ukraine."

Western countries have accused Iran of supplying drones that Moscow is using to carry out strikes in Ukraine, and the White House said Thursday that Iranian personnel were on the ground in Crimea helping Russian forces conduct drone attacks.

'Fake news'

However Russia's UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, called the charges "another fake (news) about the alleged supplies to Russia... We reject any attempts to involve the UN secretariat in this dirty undertaking." Iran also strongly rejected the drone allegations at the United Nations earlier in the week.

The United States and key Western allies claim Russia's use of Iranian drones to attack civilians and power plants in Ukraine is in violation of a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution and international humanitarian law.

Russia countered by accusing Ukraine of attacking infrastructure and civilians for eight years in the eastern separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed earlier this year.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the drones are Russian and warned that an investigation would violate the U.N. Charter and seriously affect relations between Russia and the United Nations.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said that "the U.N. must investigate any violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions _ and we must not allow Russia or others to impede or threaten the U.N. from carrying out its mandated responsibilities.''

The Western clash with Russia over attacks on civilians and infrastructure and the use of Iranian drones came at an open council meeting that also focused on the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine as winter approaches. Almost 18 million people, more than 40% of Ukraine's population, need humanitarian assistance, U.N. humanitarian coordinator Denise Brown says.

U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo expressed grave concern to the council that Russian missile and drone attacks between Oct. 10 and Oct. 18 in cities and towns across Ukraine killed at least 38 Ukrainian civilians, injured at least 117 and destroyed critical energy infrastructure, including power plants.

She cited the Ukrainian government's announcement that 30% of the country's energy facilities have been hit, most notably in the capital Kyiv and in the Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.

In a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Iran of violating a Security Council ban on the transfer of drones capable of flying 300 kilometers (about 185 miles).

That provision was part of Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six key nations _ the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany _ aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear activities and preventing the country from developing a nuclear weapon.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement in 2018 and negotiations between the Biden administration and Iran for the United States to rejoin the deal have stalled.

Under the resolution, a conventional arms embargo on Iran was in place until October 2020. But restrictions on missiles and related technologies run until October 2023, and Western diplomats say that includes the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones, which are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

Iranian Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said Wednesday that he ``categorically rejected unfounded and unsubstantiated claims that Iran has transferred UAVs for the use (in) the conflict in Ukraine." He accused unnamed countries of trying to launch a disinformation campaign to "wrongly establish a link'' with the U.N. resolution.

"Moreover, Iran is of the firm belief that none of its arms exports, including UAVs, to any country'' violate Resolution 2231, he added.

France, Germany and Britain on Friday supported Ukraine's accusation that Iranian has supplies drones to Russia in violation of the 2015 resolution and they are being used in attacks on civilians and power plants in Ukraine. They backed Kyiv's call for a U.N. investigation.

The three European countries said in a joint letter to the 15 council members that reports in open sources suggest Iran intends to transfer more drones to Russia along with ballistic missiles.

Neither Iran nor Russia sought advance approval from the council for the transfer of Mohajer and Shahed UAVs and therefore "have violated resolution 2231,'' the letter said.

The U.S. sent a similar letter, saying Iranian drones were transferred to Russia in late August and requesting the U.N. Secretariat team responsible for monitoring the resolution's implementation to "conduct a technical and impartial investigation that assesses the type of UAV's involved in these transfers."

Nebenzia also sent a letter contending that DiCarlo is siding with the West on carrying out an investigation. His letter insists that "the U.N. Secretariat has no authority to conduct, or in any other form engage, in any "investigation'" related to Resolution 2231.