Friday , 8 December 2023

Ukrainian President Zelensky criticizes Iran’s support for Russia during Congress speech

Al-Monitor – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran during his speech to Congress Wednesday evening. 

Zelenskyy came to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden and secure more aid for Ukraine as it fights against Russia’s invasion of the country. 

Speaking in his quintessential army green sweatshirt, Zelenskyy spent much of the speech bashing Russia and thanking the United States for its support. He also referenced Iran’s alleged military support for Russia in the Ukraine war. 

“When Russia cannot reach our cities by its artillery it tries to destroy them with missile attacks and allies in the genocidal policy with Iran,” said Zelenskyy. “Iran has become a critical threat to our infrastructure. The terrorists have found each other.”

“It is just a matter of time before they strike your other allies if we don’t stop them now,” he added. 

Several minutes later, Zelenskyy referenced Iranian drones. 

“If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other,” he said. 

Why it matters: There have been numerous indications from the West that Iran is supplying Russia with drones in the Ukraine war. Reports of Iranian drones being used in Ukraine began to gain steam in the fall. In October, Iran denied its drones were being used in the conflict, despite the evidence to the contrary. The same month, the White House said that Iran directly engaged militarily in Ukraine

Earlier this month, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirkby said that Iran’s supply of drones to Russia is “continued.” 

Iranian and Western officials sparred over the drone allegations at a United Nations Security Council Tuesday. 

Zelenskyy made a point to strike a bipartisan tone in the speech, thanking Democrats and Republicans. The criticism of Iran could win him empathy from hawks in both parties. 

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue working every single day to ensure there is robust commitment to support the people of Ukraine every step of the way towards victory,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement following the speech.

Know more: Russia and Iran are close allies. In addition to the military cooperation, the two countries enjoy close economic and energy relations. Iran began linking its electricity grid to Russia’s in November. In August, Russia and Iran started using their own currencies for bilateral trade, in part to help Iran not need to rely on the US dollar. 

Ukraine and Iran used to have relatively normal diplomatic ties, but relations became strained after Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020. Ukraine-Iran relations further worsened over the Russian invasion. 

What’s next: Congress is due to vote soon on another aid package to Ukraine. Menendez said Wednesday that voting would take place “tonight.”