Russia to review working with UN chief if he inspects drones in Ukraine

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Russia said on Wednesday that it will reassess cooperation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres if he sends experts to Ukraine to inspect drones that Western powers say were made in Iran and used by Moscow in violation of a UN resolution.

Speaking after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Moscow's use of drones, Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy called on Guterres and his staff to “abstain from engaging in any illegitimate investigation.”

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“Otherwise, we will have to reassess our collaboration with them, which is hardly in anyone's interests. We do not want to do it, but there will be no other choice,” he told reporters.

Polyanskiy did not elaborate.

The Security Council met on Russia's use of drones in Ukraine at the request of the United States, France and Britain, who argue that the drones are Iranian made and used by Moscow in violation of a 2015 resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal.

Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow and Russia has denied its forces had used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.

“Iran has obligations not to export these weapons,” Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki posted on Twitter after the meeting. “As a member of the U.N., Iran has a responsibility not to support Russia's war of aggression.”

Ukraine this week invited UN experts to inspect some downed drones. Guterres reports twice a year to the Security Council - traditionally in June and December - on the implementation of the 2015 resolution. Any assessment of the drones in Ukraine would likely be included in that report.

“As a matter of policy, we are always ready to examine any information and analyze any information brought to us by Member States,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday.

Iran and Russia both argue that there is no mandate for Guterres to send experts to Ukraine to inspect the drones.

In a letter to Guterres on Wednesday, Iran's UN Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said Ukraine's invitation to UN experts “lacks any legal foundation” and called on Guterres “to prevent any misuse” of the resolution and U.N. officials on issues related to the Ukraine war.

French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said Guterres has a “clear mandate twice a year to report on all these things and to make technical assessments, so I think the U.N. secretariat will have to go and will go.”

Under the 2015 resolution, a conventional arms embargo on Iran was in place until October 2020.

But Ukraine and Western powers argue that the resolution still includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies until October 2023 and can encompass the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.

The UN Security Council is unable to take any substantial action over the war in Ukraine because Russia holds a veto on the 15-member body, along with China, the United States, France and Britain.

Dujarric declined to comment on Polyanskiy's remarks.

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