US to impose sanctions to curb Iran’s supply of drones to Russia; Sunak backs coalition to send fighter jets

US to impose sanctions to curb Iran’s supply of drones to Russia; Sunak backs coalition to send fighter jets
A handout photo made available by the British Prime Minister's Office, No 10 Downing Street, shows Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak (left), welcoming Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, at Chequers, the country house of the Prime Minister in Buckinghamshire, Britain, 15 May 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street Handout / Crown Copyright)

The US will impose new sanctions against those involved in the transfer of drones from Iran to Russia that are being used in Moscow’s war against Ukraine, the White House said on Monday.

The US believes Iran and Russia are readying a deal for additional drone sales, after many of the more than 400 pilotless aircraft already sent to the Russian military have been used to target infrastructure in Ukraine, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he backed the idea of a coalition to provide Ukraine with Western-made fighter jets, but didn’t promise any UK planes. The UK will provide hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems, including new long-range attack drones, according to a UK government statement.

Key developments

US seeks to restrict Western components used in Iran’s drones  

In addition to sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s supply of drones to Russia, the US plans steps to help governments and businesses better understand how Iran is obtaining components for its drone programme, said Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson. 

The US has also joined the European Union and the UK in imposing new restrictions to prevent Western components that have been found in Iran’s Orion drones from making their way into the country.

Russian premier, sanctioned tycoons to visit China forum  

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin will lead a government delegation to China next week to attend a business forum along with sanctioned tycoons as Moscow leans on Beijing to help it withstand economic pressure over the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska has been invited to the Russia-China Business Forum in Shanghai on May 23, while fertiliser tycoons Andrey Guryev and Andrey Melnichenko, pipe maker Dmitry Pumpyansky and Alexey Mordashov of steel and mining giant Severstal, have also been asked to attend, according to people with knowledge of the plans. Deripaska won’t be attending the forum, his spokesperson said after publication of the original story.

UK backs coalition to send fighter jets 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged support for a coalition to help provide Ukraine with a fleet of Western-made fighter jets, although he stopped short of promising actual aircraft during Zelensky’s visit.

Zelensky says his recent trip to Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain brought important agreements regarding military support, according to an emailed statement from his office. 

“Really important, powerful defence packages,” Zelensky said. 




G7 to strengthen Russia sanctions enforcement  

Group of Seven leaders plan to bolster their coordination in combating the circumvention of sanctions imposed on Russia when they meet in Hiroshima, Japan, later this week.

“The impact of sanctions is highly linked to the quality of the coordination with our partners, be they in the G7 or beyond,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a news conference on Monday.

The European Union is working on a new package of sanctions that would close loopholes and hit companies and countries that are helping Russia to obtain sanctioned goods. The bloc could ban goods from going to a certain country if there’s clear evidence of them ending up in Russian territory, Von der Leyen said.

Nato needs to devise framework for Ukraine – Stoltenberg 

Nato allies need to devise “some kind of framework” to prevent Russia from continuing to chip away at European security and reinvading Ukraine after the war ends, the alliance’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg said, declining to provide more details on what that should look like.

“What I can say is that if Nato allies, and especially the big ones, start to issue security guarantees bilaterally to Ukraine, we are very close to Article 5,” Stoltenberg told his predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a live interview at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit. Article 5 refers to the collective defence commitments allies enjoy once they are full members of Nato.

Stoltenberg said he would push allies to agree to a stronger defence investment pledge and said the goal to spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defence is “something that should be reached as soon as possible, immediately, without waiting as much as is necessary — the message should be that there’s not another decade.

Asked about another potential extension to his role, Stoltenberg said he has made it clear he has no other plans than to leave this autumn.




Germany to send more air defence systems to Ukraine 

Germany will provide Ukraine with a total of eight Iris-T air defence systems, a spokesperson for the defence ministry in Berlin said at the regular government news conference. 

Germany has already supplied two such systems and delivery of the rest will depend on a number of issues including production capacities at manufacturer Diehl Defence, the spokesperson added.

Ukraine says defence of Bakhmut continues 

Russia is pressing Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut, which remains an epicentre of fighting along with the town of Maryinka in the Donetsk region, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

However, the army managed to advance in the direction of Bakhmut, which is the “first success of offensive actions during the defence of the city”, the Ukrainian military media centre said, citing Commander of the Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi. 

“Still, it is only a partial success and should be treated as such,” he said, adding that the operation to defend Bakhmut was ongoing.

UK to announce more military aid to Ukraine 

Prime Minister Sunak will also discuss what support Ukraine needs from the international community, both immediate military equipment and long-term defences, according to a UK government statement. 

France to provide more support to Ukraine 

France will continue providing political, financial, humanitarian and military support to Ukraine for as long as necessary, the presidential office said, adding the two nations will support efforts to curtail the circumvention of sanctions against Russia.  

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Zelensky in Paris on Sunday where the leaders discussed the support required to help end the war. They agreed on the need to increase collective pressure on Russia through new sanctions to weaken the country’s ability to wage its illegal war of aggression, the French presidency said in a statement. DM


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