Ukraine Accuses Iran of Training Russian Drone Pilots

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KYIV, Ukraine—Ukraine said it has evidence of Iranian instructors training Russians to operate drones used to hit civilian targets across the country in attacks so damaging that the capital’s mayor urged residents to consider temporarily leaving the city.

Kyiv Mayor

Vitali Klitschko

advised residents to stock up on essentials such as water, charged batteries, food supplies and warm clothing, warning that a total blackout couldn’t be ruled out.

“In a bad scenario, if we don’t have electricity or water, and if you have relatives or friends in the suburbs of Kyiv who have a separate water supply, a stove and heating, plan to stay there temporarily,” he said.

The city administration is preparing to roll out about 1,000 heating points across Kyiv. But Mr. Klitschko said that wouldn’t be enough for the three million people currently living in the city, including roughly 350,000 displaced from other parts of the country.

Nearly half a million residents of the capital were left without power on Friday as weeks of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure took a toll on the grid. Ukraine’s electricity-transmission-system operator Ukrenergo said it had been forced to impose additional restrictions on Saturday in the form of emergency shutdowns in seven regions, including the capital, after electricity consumption rose in the morning.

Ukrenergo compared the shutdowns to the return of a patient to the intensive care unit. Work to repair and restore the network is continuing, it said.

Kyiv has been experiencing frequent blackouts amid strains on the power grid.


Andrew Kravchenko/Associated Press

The damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure poses a challenge for Kyiv as winter sets in. Life in the capital had regained a semblance of normality in recent months and the economy, while hurting, was stabilizing after the deep crash sparked by the war.

But Russia, after battlefield setbacks, began systematically targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure last month using cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to overwhelm the country’s patchwork of air defenses.

Russia aims to wear down the civilian population and undermine support for the war effort, Ukrainian officials say.

Iran acknowledged for the first time on Saturday it had supplied Moscow with drones. Foreign Minister

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

said a “small number” of drones had been dispatched to Russia a few months before Moscow began its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky,

in his nightly address, accused Tehran of lying.

“We shoot down at least 10 Iranian drones every day, and the Iranian regime claims that it allegedly gave little and even before the start of the full-scale invasion,” he said. “We know for sure that Iranian instructors taught Russian terrorists how to use drones, and Tehran is generally silent about it.”

Eleven Iranian-made drones were downed on Saturday alone, he said. While the percentage shot down has increased, Mr. Zelensky said more action was needed to protect the skies. Kyiv’s partners have moved to bolster the country’s air defenses and recently agreed to set up a mechanism to help repair and protect its infrastructure.

A power cut leaves Kharkiv’s damaged regional-administration building in darkness.


Ditmar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

More air-defense systems will arrive by the end of the year, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister

Dmytro Kuleba,

who said agreements with several countries had been reached but details couldn’t be disclosed.

On the battlefield, momentum has slowed since Ukrainian forces drove Russian troops out of a swath of territory in the northeast of the country during a surprise offensive in September.

In the south, Ukrainian forces have been pressing on the occupied regional capital of Kherson, but progress is slow because of the open terrain, which provides little cover against Russian artillery fire.

Months of Ukrainian strikes targeting Russian supply lines in the region have loosened Moscow’s hold on Kherson, but there are signs it might be preparing to fight for the city.

While preparing fallback positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, Russian forces are also setting up defensive positions northwest of Kherson and deploying newly mobilized forces there, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington.

Russian-installed authorities in Kherson have ordered residents to retreat to the eastern side of the Dnipro as Ukrainian forces close in. Moscow-installed official

Kirill Stremousov

said on Sunday there was a significant buildup of Ukrainian forces in the area of Davydiv Brid, to the northwest of Kherson city, and that the movement of civilians across the river was continuing.

Russian forces in the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region are building fortifications along the front line there in case of a possible Ukrainian offensive, Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Moscow-backed administration, told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

Mr. Rogov told the news agency that he believed it was possible that Kyiv would order an offensive before U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday, in an effort to show that Ukraine’s military offensive is successful, he said.

Earlier, Mr. Rogov said the Ukrainian military was transferring troops from the northeastern Kharkiv region to Dnipro in central Ukraine to launch an attack on Zaporizhzhia, RIA Novosti reported.

Write to Isabel Coles at [email protected]

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