Washington Post Received Evidence of Iran-Russia Collaboration in Manufacturing Shahed Drones

The Washington Post has obtained internal documents about the operations of a plant producing Iranian drones at the facility in the Republic of Tatarstan's Alabuga Special Economic Zone. It aims to domestically build 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025.

The documents, leaked from a plant worker and dated from winter 2022 to spring 2023, reveal close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, which the latter denies.

Under the deal, the new documents show, Tehran agreed to sell Moscow what is effectively a franchise, with Iranian specialists sharing project documentation, locally produced or reverse-engineered components and know-how. The Russian side then reproduces the production based on this information, scales it up, and addresses issues related to deficient components and logistics.

According to a planning document, the production plan for the Alabuga plant is to be separated into three stages.

The first envisioned Iran’s delivery of disassembled drones that would be reassembled at the facility. The second called for the facility to produce airframes — the hollow bodies of the drones — that would be combined with Iranian-supplied engines and electronics. In the final and most ambitious stage, more than 4,000 drones would be produced with little Iranian assistance and delivered to the Russian military by September 2025.

A detailed inventory, based on data provided to the Russians by Tehran, shows that over 90 percent of the drone system’s computer chips and electrical components are manufactured in the West, primarily in the United States. According to the document, only four of the 130 electronic components needed to build the drone are made in Russia.

To keep staffers and lure talent from rival manufacturers, Alabuga boosted salaries, budget documents show, with some key workers earning 10 times the median Russian salary. According to the individual, management created obstacles to prevent employees from quitting, including seizing passports and requiring workers to seek sign-off before leaving their positions. Central Asian workers who held low-level jobs at Alabuga were sent to Iran because they speak a language similar to Farsi.

Although Russia has managed to optimize the Iranian Shahed design and establish production, challenges have emerged.

The Russians had issues in dealing with the Iranian side. An estimated 25 percent of the drones shipped from Iran for Alabuga's use and delivered by Russian Defence Ministry aircraft were damaged.

Moreover, according to experts interviewed by The Washington Post, project managers warned their higher-ups about a 37-day delay in the schedule as communications with Iran were slowed by the Russian Defence Ministry’s bureaucracy and Iran's failure to provide some technical documentation.

According to Kyiv's estimates, Russia has launched around 600 Shahed drones against Ukrainian targets over the last three months, with at least some of them manufactured at the Russian plant.

In April, the USA released a satellite image indicating that Iran is providing Russia with materials to build a drone manufacturing plant east of Moscow, which Russia uses to destroy civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

US intelligence believes that once the construction of the Shahed drone plant in Russia is completed, it could significantly impact the Ukraine conflict.

Russia illegally deported another 450 children from Ukrainian territories it occupies

Russia continues illegally deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia and assimilating them into the Russian society.

Ukraine’s National Resistance Center reported that Russian occupation authorities recently took 50 Ukrainian high schoolers to Yaroslavl, a Russian city located 250 km northeast of Moscow, to encourage them to join the city’s Demidov State University. Russians also continue to take Ukrainian children to children’s camps for "rehabilitation": 200 children were taken from Dovzhansk to Anapa and 200 children (150 from the Kakhovka and Henichesk districts in Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast and 50 from the Russian-occupied territory of Zaporizhzhia Oblast) to Krasnodar Krai.

Ukrainian children attend concerts by "Russian celebrities" and "patriotic training" – where Russian teachers are brainwashing them – at these camps. The National Resistance Center stressed that often the kids are not being brought back to Ukraine.

Russians build new defense line on Nikolske front, Donetsk Oblast

Russian occupiers began to build another line of defence on the Nikolske front in the Mariupol district, Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, has reported. Andriushchenko added that Russian aircraft activity has been observed over the road from Nikolske (Donetsk Oblast) to Kinskyi Rozdoriv (Zaporizhia Oblast).

Apart from that, many trucks with Russian personnel and cargo are returning to the Nikolske area in the Mariupol district.

Andryushchenko said that the invaders told the locals they received an order to "retreat behind the pyramids" [a line of defence fortified with concrete anti-tank obstacles – ed.].